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Build Your Own LCD Bus Schedule 409

MikeLRoy writes "An engineering student in Winnipeg, tired of missing his bus to school (and waiting in the cold) created an LCD bus stop. It displays the next bus times for several stops and routes, all from the heated comfort of his kitchen. And yes, there are pics and code on the site."
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Build Your Own LCD Bus Schedule

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  • what?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by xao gypsie ( 641755 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:43PM (#5267542)
    why, back in my day, we didnt have all these new fangled computer bus scheduler thingies. we had to work out the algorithm in our heads in the snow uphill going both these days......

    • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

      by JanusFury ( 452699 ) <kevin,gadd&gmail,com> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:49PM (#5267588) Homepage Journal
      And the buses didn't have these newfangled 'stops', either! You had to chase them down on foot, jump onto the back, and climb in through the emergency escape hatch on top!
      • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:19PM (#5267750) Homepage Journal
        Emergency hatches? Why you lucky bastards! Where I grew up, the busses were sealed. If we wanted a ride, we'd have to chase after them, and grab on to a bit of barbed wire tied to the rear bumper, and hold on for dear life as we got dragged to our destination.

        Emergency hatches? Feh! No wonder the youth of today are so soft. Why, you probably had all your own limbs all the way up to adulthood! Emergency hatches...
        • Re:what?? (Score:2, Funny)

          by Yorrike ( 322502 )
          You think you had it hard? Look here sonny, in my day we didn't even have your fancy "buses", never mind having to chase 'em and clinge to barbed wire.

          In my day, we had to crawl to and from class, barefoot and glove-less, over pits of rusty blades, broken glass and hot coals. Took a good 17 hours to get to class and by jiminy, we got it if we were late.

          Buses with internal combustion engines! The mere thought of such contraptions makes today's youth soft.

        • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Aquitaine ( 102097 ) <> on Monday February 10, 2003 @01:18AM (#5268624) Homepage
          Rear bumber? Why, sonny, you don't know how good you had it! Where I grew up, they certainly didn't have those bumber gadgets. You lept in front of that oncoming bus and prayed to high heaven that it was going fast enough to take you where you wanted to go before you slid off the grill.

          You probably had all your own ribs all the way up to adulthood! Rear bumbers...
    • Didn't you have to fight off dinosaurs as well?
    • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

      by damien_kane ( 519267 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:40PM (#5267850)
      we had to work out the algorithm in our heads in the snow uphill going both ways...

      I remember the times my dad used to tell me this story all the time...
      Now I just say 'Shut up, Dad; or I'm putting you in a home'...
  • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:45PM (#5267553) Homepage
    I hope he doesn't have class tonight, or else his clock is going to be running a bit slow, thanks to the Slashdotting... :)
  • Hrm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by d3kk ( 644538 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:46PM (#5267559) Journal
    What I'd like to know is why an engineering student is still worried about missing a bus to school..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:46PM (#5267560)
    should be: []

  • by rainer_d ( 115765 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:47PM (#5267568) Homepage
    I'm sure he needs more time to look at pr0n, so that's why he actually built the LCD.
    • When I saw that, I knew that somebody would have already commented on that. This is kinda old news, I 've heard of similar things in the past, no links though. That LCD pr0n makes me think of when people made fun of me because I did alot of cool stuff on my TI-85 and saying I was looking at calculator porn :-P
      • people made fun of me because I did alot of cool stuff on my TI-85 and saying I was looking at calculator porn
        lol - Exact same story here, 'cept it's an 86 in my case...
        Why is that everyone always assumes everything is porn?
        ... Aside from the fact that it usually is, of course.
    • Or maybe he uses kleenex for the same purpose as the rest of us:
      To blow his nose.

    • Your signature reads:

      Windows 2000 - from the guys who brought us edlin

      Don't make fun of edlin. It's probably the last program that they released that did not present a huge security risk.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:47PM (#5267569)
    What happened to either 1) looking the routes online, or 2) grabbing the routes from the library? Was this guy just going out to bus stops at random, hoping he got there at the right time? What was so hard about viewing the paper schedule?

    And how is he gonna use this thing he made when he's AWAY from home? Come home?
  • by ajuda ( 124386 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:47PM (#5267571)
    And to think I would have just written down the schedule on a piece of paper (total cost < 1 cent)
    • by shird ( 566377 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:34PM (#5267814) Homepage Journal
      I'm assuming the schedules are automatically updated based on how far behind or ahead on schedule the buses are. In aus at least, the buses have little transmitters or whatever which are picked up by recievers in the road, and the LED displays at major bus stops are updated with this information. I'm guessing the web page he is pulling this info from is also updated dynamically like this.
  • Interesting idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikeage ( 119105 ) <> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:48PM (#5267577) Homepage
    I have to say... this is one of the more clever "Remote Screen" hacks I've seen. Unlike digitized foosball tables or automatic drink mixing machine, it doesn't require any large investments in hardware, just a simple text LCD. And it actually looks kinda useful. Unfortunetly, NJTransit only makes schedules available in PDF, but... it's a cute idea.

    On another note, my school (Rutgers) has a site called (appears to be down at the moment), which uses a java applet to track buses in real-time. Only problem-- none of the bus terminals are within range of access points, and it takes a year to load (major java-bloat, methinks), but an interesting idea nonetheless.
    • "On another note, my school (Rutgers) has a site called (appears to be down at the moment), which uses a java applet to track buses in real-time. Only problem-- none of the bus terminals are within range of access points, and it takes a year to load (major java-bloat, methinks), but an interesting idea nonetheless."

      Oh, so it is *your* school now? :-) Well... It's my school too! The stupid applets don't like to run in IE 5 or 6, or Netscape Anything. I'm tempted to do a packet sniff on the damn things from a working browser and/or disassemble the code (yech) and write something that works.

      BTW, drop by and check out ruslug/bookswap/ if you haven't already. :-)
    • Re:Interesting idea (Score:3, Informative)

      by curunir ( 98273 )
      We have the same thing here in San Francisco (minus the non-working java applet, but with access from any Palm or web-enabled cell phone). It's only for a few of the most popular bus/metro lines, but there's been talk of expanding it system wide.

      More info here []
  • by Ab0rtRetryFail ( 549588 ) <floydru@[ ] ['hot' in gap]> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:51PM (#5267596) Homepage
    [Singing loudly]

    Sometimes she'd shop and she would show me what she bought!
    [/Singing loudly]

    AHEM. Sorry... got carried away there. :)
  • by __aapbgd5977 ( 124658 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:51PM (#5267605)
    Transfer []. Or better yet, just hang out nearby [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:54PM (#5267622)
    "my perl coding abalilities are far from perfect, so..."

    Just yur purl coeding abalilities?
  • Amazingly (Score:5, Informative)

    by rcs1000 ( 462363 ) <rcs1000@ g m a i l . com> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:56PM (#5267635)
    In England we have a lot of this technology already.

    (Amazingly, too, English people seem convinced their country is heading backwards at full speed towards the ice age, but that's another story.)

    In central London all the bus stops contain LED displays showihng how long you'll have to wait for each bus. Likewise, on the tube (underground, subway) their are simialr displays. Normally they say things like "Baker Street 3minutes; Chancery Lane you'll be lucky" but hey...

    There are companies like Kizoom (sp?) that offer these same services over WAP so you can make sure that when you leave your home/office then you *will* make your bus, metro, etc.
    • by Threni ( 635302 )
      "In central London all the bus stops contain LED displays showihng how long you'll have to wait for each bus"

      No; in central london all the bus stops have a number next to each destination/bus, but they aren't minutes - they are just numbers which slowly count down, and disappear as the bus turns up. IE "camden town 6mins" doesn't mean the bus to Camden Town will be 6 mins, it just means that between now and the bus turning up, you`ll see:
      camden town 6 mins
      camden town 5 mins
      camden town 4 mins
      camden town 3 mins
      camden town 2 mins
      camden town 1 min

      By my reckoning, each minute is actually 1 min 40 seconds.
    • by FrostedWheat ( 172733 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:42PM (#5267854)
      I was traveling south a few months ago, and in Luton I saw this [].

      Had to take a picture :)

      Image quality is rubbish, cheap camera.
    • Re:Amazingly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by helmutjd ( 568988 )
      I'm a few provinces over from the guy in the article (BC, Canada), but England's public transit system is far superior to anything we have in Canada, and anything I've seen in the states.

      That's the first thing that struck me the first time I visited England - cellular technology (incl. WAP) is far, far more widespread and advanced (just about everyone--senior or 8-year-old, has a cell), and the public transit system (esp. the underground) is incredible... you can get just about anywhere via bus/tube... whereas out here, if you don't have a car, you're basically screwed.

      Anyway, point being, it makes sense that your public transportation has a higher budget than out here (or in Winnipeg); yours definitely gets much more use.
    • Sydney too, since the Olympics, but not on buses, only trains, and then only at the major stations. Plus the London Tube ones have a real estimate, I think, not just a timetable based one. Here you have the sign telling you that it is now 5:32, the train was due at 5:25 and it is coming in 0 minutes with no sign of a train.
    • In central London all the bus stops contain LED displays showihng how long you'll have to wait for each bus. Likewise, on the tube (underground, subway) their are simialr displays. Normally they say things like "Baker Street 3minutes; Chancery Lane you'll be lucky" but hey...
      How about: Bakerloo trains are all on time. We would like to apologize for the situation and hope it will come to normal soon enough .
    • True, but the novelty here is that he was able to (1) build one himself, and (2) have it in his own home.

      I think that authorities might not like it too much if you took one of those LED displays from the tube and brought it home. ;)

  • by fiddlesticks ( 457600 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:58PM (#5267645) Homepage
    Less homebrewed than this cool hack, London Transport (LRT) has been operating a system of displaying (estimated) wait times for certian routes for a good few years

    Some observations:
    1. When I lived above a London bus stop, I could lean out the window and see when the next bus was due :)
    2. This was great, but *useless* if it relied on scheduled times
    3. LRT soon installed receiver/ transmitters into its buses, reporting a far more accurate ETA, as they could report bad delays in real(ish) time
    4. sometimes I noticed humans on the end of the LCDs - eg once it reported 'awful idea of arrival' :)

    5. Plans are afoot for the following: audio repeater, large Countdown signs at bus stations, hand-held Countdown terminals for operations staff and a central real-time travel information desk

      Loads of info []

      Nice image - Nice image []

      blurb []
  • Why he needs it.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hopbine ( 618442 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:08PM (#5267699)
    A lot of replies are why does he need this not a written bus schedule. Well snow and winter tend to disrupt thing up here. The bus does not always run to the exact minute that they obviously do in New York Or London. At times in Ottawa (and Winnipeg) they may be as much as 5 minutes late. With the weather we have that's a hell of long time
    • Re:Why he needs it.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by passion ( 84900 )

      Exactly, and sometimes busses come a little early. So when you get out to the stop, maybe you're on time, maybe you're not. Maybe there are people there, and perhaps there aren't.

      If you're the only one, do you guess and wait for the bus - (you could be out there a long time, freezing your butt off) or do you go back in? There is definitely a great application for this, but it requires GPS (if it's not on a centralized system, like a subway).

      These guys are working on a bus-tracking GPS project. []

    • Here in Saskatoon, the buses may be as much as 10 minutes off between runs. The bus at 5:07 may be leaving at 5:05 and the one scheduled to arrive at 5:37 may not get there until a quarter to 6. I've had it happen numerous times. Luckily the one I take in the morning is relatively standard as far as time (and passengers) goes.
  • My local bus stop, where I wait for the bus every morning also has a large LCD screen. On the screen you can see arrival times for every bus tha comes to that stop. Also on the sign, is a small antenna which communicates with the bus. Only only for figuring out where the bus are so it can calulate the time and delays, but also for controls for the traffic lights so the bus will encounter less red lights.
  • Why lynx -source? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 ) <mister,sketch&gmail,com> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:22PM (#5267761)
    If he's using perl couldn't he just as easily use the LWP::UserAgent module (part of libwww-perl [])?

    use LWP::UserAgent;

    my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;
    my $source = $ua->get("")->content;

  • Bus type (Score:2, Funny)

    by NortWind ( 575520 )
    So was this LCD display for a serial bus, or parellel?
  • by dotgod ( 567913 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:35PM (#5267821)
    A lot of bus companies nowadays have their schedule avaliable in this newfangled fomat called a paper brochure. Not only does it work anywhere, but you don't even need electricity. Additionally, these marvelous contraptions have a more verbose version of the scedule then the LCD bus schedule display.
    • You laugh, but my university has all of their busses connected to a GPS system and then to the internet. Go to and you will find times and exact positions of the busses for Rutgers University!
      • Wow -- has it really changed that much on the banks of the old Raritan? I guess the days of waiting for hours out on the barren tundra of Busch to catch Sunday's rare "EE" to meet your girlfriend over on Douglas are gone.

        Man, you kids these days are so spoiled. When I was your age, we didn't have no new-fangled bus-trackers -- we would have to build a bus ourselves if we needed to go to a class on Cook. And we built em' outta rocks! And lint! And we'd power them with wild badgers! And we LIKED it!
    • Yes well this sound similar to an argument I had receantly regarding university research. Our university has eliminated it's paper card catalog entirely. All lookup is done on computers now. However, more than that online journal databases are getting ver popular. Entire academic journals are being stored and are fully searchable. So someone I know was commenting on how it sucks that computers are taking over everywhere since the paper card catalog was so much more simple and reliable (I've never seen the online lookup system crash, but I'm sure it has). My point was yes, but the electronic system is much, much faster and I can (and have) done research papers from my computer at home.

      So yes, a paper brochure does work, however there is something to be said for an electronic system as it automitcally updates for you, and can be tied into various automatic alerts.

      There is plenty of stuff now done electronically that there is an old method for that works. However that doesn't mean the newer method is invalid.
  • why engineering students don't get laid...
  • This is a great idea. Now if only you could get the bus drivers to be on time...
    I swear Strathcona County [Rural Edmonton] Transit drivers make a point of being 3-5 minutes early, just to thwart people who adhere to schedules.
  • Cool, but if he'd just clean off the crap from his 'fridge, he could have just posted a schedule saving himself the effort and from having to patch the wall when it was time to vacate the house! ;-)
  • Something like this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Snuffub ( 173401 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @10:15PM (#5267967) Homepage
    They just started something like this at princeton for the grad students, the new bus route which goes between the grad students appartments has a system designed by an undergrad and his prof to transmit real time gps information inorder to generate up to the minute schedules. There's more information here:
  • by breon.halling ( 235909 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @10:31PM (#5268009)

    ... this device could actually make the buses stick to the schedule! =P

  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @10:33PM (#5268023) tape the bus schedule to the refrigerator door?

    I'd be more impressed if he built a robot that poked him with a sharp stick 5 minutes before the bus got there.
  • ... what is the purpose of a phone jack in this project?
  • Next Bus [] based in Emeryville do something cooler, they strap GPS boxes to busses and then using that data beam the info to busstops so you the time to next bus is based on where the bus actually is as opposed to where the scedule says it should be. Very cool. You can see a live map of the SF busses here []
  • by nakaduct ( 43954 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:26PM (#5268198)
    [next release] show when the next bus leaves for "way the fuck out of Winnipeg"
  • Boston T (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RoloDMonkey ( 605266 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:27PM (#5268201) Homepage Journal
    When I lived in Boston there was a pizza parlor right next to a stop that had the brilliant idea of installing a camera focused on the track a few blocks away. Paying customers could stay inside, warm and dry, and see when the next train was about to arrive. On a cold, wet day it was worth a few bucks to be waiting inside eating pizza.
  • Just a tip (Score:3, Informative)

    by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:29PM (#5268210)
    If you are considering building this yourself,
    I know several people who have bought from (his LCD supplier) and its ran by one guy, and it takes forever for him to ship.

    Consider a company called "timeline" instead, a simple google will turn them up.
    • If you're good with electronics, don't get those LCD displays with built in serial port, they cost a LOT more. Simple text displays have a standard 7 or 14 pin interface that's really simple to operate.

      2x20 text LCD shouldn't be much more than $10. With backlight, $20. (prices from a quick google search, so there might be better)
      • by CaseyB ( 1105 )
        If you're good with electronics, don't get those LCD displays with built in serial port, they cost a LOT more.

        If you're good with chemical engineering and microelectronic fabrication, don't get those prebuilt LCD displays, they cost a LOT more. The raw minerals shouldn't be much more than $0.25.

  • Buy a car!!! =P

    J/K I know how much a pain it can be in cities...
  • Bussing in Winnipeg (Score:5, Informative)

    by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:35PM (#5268225)
    For everyone out there saying this guy should take a bike, it's no big deal waiting for a bus, etc...

    Let me just tell you what it's like up here in Winnipeg.

    Tonight, for example, it's going down to -35C. That's damn near -35F for you yank types (ie: DAMN COLD). Cycling to work here is almost impossible, because in addition to the cold we have almost no bicycle lanes, and driving on the road is a joke - ice and snow cover the roads for 4-6 months a year.

    In short, busses are absolutely essential, and seeing as how our schedules change every couple of months, staying on top of it is one big pain. Kudos to this guy for coming up with something clever!
    • The schedules only change twice a year... oh, and xmas holidays where they revert schedules, and, oh yeah, any other holidays they feel like screwing with it.

      yeah, just love Winnipeg transit.

      Glad I have a car. :)
      • Plus of course, what's really on topic here: whenever the Univeristy goes into exam time, then the break afterwards. The 75 changes its schedule at least a dozen times during the year as a result (makes for annoying waits if you go to campus on the weekend).
  • This is cool.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:53PM (#5268297)
    One problem. Every bus company uses a different thing. No standards exist. Currently, my local bus company allows you to view the schedules on the web, but the labels at the top are JPEGS which mean I can't parse them into a smaller table suitable for my Pocket PC. That also renders the schedules unreadable for the blind. They don't even have a alt tag or a alternate text version. PDF schedules are unsuitable because PDF on a small device sucks. I would rather just like to be able to look at the schedule on my PDA and forget the display in my kitchen.
  • Missed a link (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Swaffs ( 470184 ) <swaff.fudo@org> on Monday February 10, 2003 @12:22AM (#5268417) Homepage
    "(and waiting in the cold [])"
  • by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <revaaron&hotmail,com> on Monday February 10, 2003 @01:15AM (#5268616) Homepage
    I rely on the bus (in addition to my feet and bike- no car) to get everywhere around town. Carrying around paper schedules was a pain, and sometimes they'd go out of date without you knowing.

    Luckily, my city has all the bus schedules on line []. For me, it was a simple matter of downloading the PDFs of the schedules and putting them on my PDA, which is usually a Newton 2100, but also a Jornada 720 (for research).

    I've been meaning to write a small app in Squeak [] for Dynapad [] that does something similar to this hardware solution. It has all the data for the all the bus routes in town (as well as the Greyhound route I take to my parents house), and gives you available bus times out of a given location. Creating a multi-route iternerary would be pretty easy as well.

    Unfortunately, I've not gotten around to this yet. The code side of it would be pretty straightforward and IMO fun to write. But the Duluth Transit Authority has opted to only have the schedules online in paper form or as PDF- which would mean I'd have to do some serious PIA data entry. It would be a pain to maintain, looking over a lot of numbers to find a couple of minor changes in bus schedule.

    So, I figured I could dick aroudn with pdf2txt or pdf2html converters, parsing from there. But parsing never is fun to me, in any language, so I've kind of not bothered, just dealing with the plain old PDFs for now.
  • by lushman ( 251748 ) on Monday February 10, 2003 @01:37AM (#5268679)
    At the end of the day, it is a real waste of time for the computer to be looking up timetables which is really where your problem originates - missing the bus is not just about being at the stop at the scheduled time. In my experience, buses can be anywhere from 5-10 minutes early or late, with little way of predicting either way.

    What would be useful is real-time tracking of buses and their respective positions ... simply by using existing wireless data networks. Here in Sydney, Australia, all major bus routes have almost perfect access to three GSM/GPRS networks, with Vodafone at least offering a locating system on top ....

    Now if you could access all this information via WAP/GPRS on your cell phone, you would have an inexpensive and accurate way to know whether there actually is time for another beer without missing the bus. It could also mean that you would waste less time sitting around at a bus stop with your fingers crossed.

    I'm sorry if this is a bit off-topic but maybe we shouldn't cry revolution every time someone homebrews an LCD with Linux to display something.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982