Delivering Real-Time Arrival Data to Commuters

Transportation | Bus Detective

Bus Detective is the first locally-made mobile app to provide real-time arrival data for Cincinnati Metro buses. It’s free for Android, iOS or as a web app, so commuters can find out when their bus is coming while they’re on the go.


The app was named “Best Software Product” in the Cincinnati Business Courier 2016 Innovation and Technology Awards.


“The Bus Detective app is a great example of the talent and creativity within our community and is helping make catching the bus even easier for the thousands of customers who rely on our service every day.”

Dwight Ferrell

Metro CEO in UrbanCincy

Happy Users, Happy Stats


6+ minutes

Average user session



Pages per user session



Daily user sessions

On the Move: Memorable Branding + User-Friendly Design

From the name to the logo, Bus Detective’s fun and memorable brand helped it earn fans fast—more than 1,000 daily user sessions in the first few months. The primary logo doubles as a mascot while secondary marks serve as phone screen icons, website headers and more. A friendly color palette welcomes users and gives a nod to the Cincinnati Metro brand.

The app itself allows commuters to track approaching buses by viewing up-to-the-minute arrival times along with minute-by-minute countdowns of every bus headed for their stop in the next hour. A few of the user-friendly design features:


Under the Hood: Real-Time Data, Anywhere

Bus Detective uses open data provided by Cincinnati Metro to retrieve scheduled data and real-time updates. To put transit schedules on Google Maps, Google developed a standard called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) that allowed us to take a standards-based approach to processing the data. When real-time data is not available, Bus Detective is resilient and falls back to using scheduled data to give users the best experience.

Initially, we wrote Bus Detective as a browser-only application, but it quickly became obvious that mobile is a must for a commuting app. To create mobile apps from our existing system, we used Cordova, an open-source framework, to wrap our web app and create iPhone and Android apps with the same code base. This approach allowed us to increase our flexibility (changes only need to be made in one framework) and significantly reduce the amount of development time compared to building two native apps.

Want to take the app for a test drive? Download Bus Detective.

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