I get impatient quickly when I’m looking up information on my phone. There’s just something about it that makes me jittery – especially when the information is time-sensitive, like timetables for public transport. If you’re like me, then Dimitris Platis‘s newest build is for you. He has created the VästtraPi, a Pi-powered departure time screen for your home!
Never miss the bus again with VästtraPi
Let me set the scene: it’s a weekday morning, and you’ve finally woken up enough to think about taking the bus to work. How much time do you have to catch it, though? You pick up your phone, unlock it, choose the right app, wait for it to update – and realise this took so much time that you’ll probably miss the next bus! Grrrrrr!
Now picture this: instead of using your phone, you can glance at a personalized real-time bus schedule monitor while sipping your tea at breakfast.
Such a device is exactly what Dimitris has created with the VästtraPi, and he has provided instructions so you can make your own. One less stress factor for your morning commute!
Setting up the VästtraPi
The main pieces of hardware making up the VästtraPi are a Raspberry Pi Zero W, an LCD screen, and a power control board designed by Dimitris which switches the device on and off. He explains where to buy the board’s components, as well as all the other parts of the build, and how to put them together. He’s also 3D-printed a simple case.
On the software side, a Python script accesses the API provided by Dimitris’s local public transportation company, Västtrafik, and repeatedly fetches information about his favourite bus stop. It displays the information using neat graphics, generated with the help of Tkinter, the standard GUI package for Python. The device is set up so that pressing the ‘on’ button starts up the Pi. The script then runs automatically for ten minutes before safely shutting everything down. Very economical!
Dimitris has even foreseen what you’re likely to be thinking right now:
So, is this faster than the mobile app solution? Yes and no. The Raspberry Pi Zero W needs around 30 seconds to boot up and display the GUI. Without any optimizations it is naturally slower than my phone. VästtraPi’s biggest advantage is that it allows me to multitask while it is loading.
Build your own live bus schedule monitor
All the schematics and code are available via Dimitris’s write-up. He says that, for the moment, “the bus station, selected platform and bus line destinations that are displayed are hard-coded” in his script, but that it would be easy to amend for your own purposes. Of course, when recreating this build, you’ll want to use your own local public transport provider’s API, so some tweaking of his code will be required anyway.
What do you think – will this improve your morning routine? Are you up to the challenge of adapting it? Or do you envision modifying the build to display other live information? Let us know how you get on in the comments.