Engineering freshman Efe Akinci, an Ann Arbor native, struggled to navigate the University of Michigan’s Magic Bus application last year and decided to do something about it.
So this past summer, Akinci designed and programmed his own unofficial app — M-Bus — that tracks when buses arrive in real-time.
“(The University-affiliated app Magic Bus) just loads their webpage, so it feels a little clunky because it’s basically a webpage in an app,” Akinci said. “I wanted to make my own so that when I came (to Michigan) I would be able to find bus stops and buses and have a better experience with it.”
Akinci said he spent two weeks creating the app and then made it available for download on the App Store and Google Play. Akinci then shared his app with close friends and posted to the U-M subreddit promoting his app. Soon enough, downloads for the app began to increase.
“I was expecting like twenty or thirty people to download it,” Ackinci said. “And then the first day I launched it, I think about 650 people downloaded it, which I was not expecting. I hadn’t made the app to handle that, and the app crashed on its first day.”
Since then, Akinci has reworked the app to avoid crashes.
“It’s not a very intensive program, at least on the back end, so I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be able to support every single person here using it,” Akinci said.
The M-Bus app relies on Application Programming Interface data that the University acquired through its 2020 contract with Clever Devices, the supplier that facilitated the switch from the previous University-affiliated app Double Map to Magic Bus. Akinci said he uses the same data the University uses, ensuring the app’s accuracy.
“As far as I can tell, (the contract) comes with a standard package that includes a developer API, so that’s what I’m using. It’s all standardized and very well documented,” Akinci said. “It comes from the same data that U of M uses.”
Moving forward, Akinci said he plans to change the app so that each time the University updates its bus routes, the app automatically adds the new routes without requiring users to update their app to the newest version.
Since launching in August, Akinci’s M-Bus has garnered 57 ratings on the Apple App Store, with an average rating of 4.9 stars as of Sept. 8.
Akinci’s frustrations with the University’s official bus app, Magic Bus, are shared among many of its users. When the University first launched Magic Bus in early 2020, students said the app’s features were not intuitive and bus positions were not always updated.
LSA sophomore Jack Sweeting uses the U-M bus system a couple of times a week and switched from Magic Bus to M-Bus.
“I don’t use the (Michigan) Magic Bus app; I use the M-Bus app, which I’ve found is a bit more accurate than the official one by the school,” Sweeting said. “Even then sometimes the (M-Bus) app can be a little inaccurate on the timing. But it’s usually pretty helpful for knowing when a bus is going to be there.”
Sweeting also said he thinks the M-Bus app uses a more “user-friendly interface,” compared to Magic Bus, which shows users more maps and screens.
Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Carlos Pirela Romero regularly commutes from North to Central Campus and said he prefers to use Google Maps over the Magic Bus app because of its simplicity. Pirela Romero said he had not yet used M-Bus.
“I think Google Maps is more user-friendly than Magic (Bus),” Pirela Romera said. “Magic Bus has a lot of stats, a lot of drop-down menus. It gets a little complicated.”
Currently, the app is run entirely by Akinci, who said he doesn’t earn profit from the app. Akinci said before launching, he received permission from the University’s Logistics, Transportation & Parking department to create the app.
“I did ask if they were okay with the app existing, and they said they were fine with it as long as it had no U of M branding and I didn’t make money … from it,” Akinci said. “They know the app exists and they’re fine with it existing, which is really all that I can ask for.”
The University Logistics, Transportation & Parking department did not respond to requests for comment.
For the time being, Akinci said he plans to continue running the app but said he would not be opposed to handing the app over to other students in the future.
“Even if I can’t make it in the future, again I’m not making any money off from it, I’m not getting any compensation for it, so I’d be happy to just throw it out in the open at some point and just be done,” Akinci said. “We have smart kids at U of M, and I’d be happy to let them have fun with it.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.