Open Source on the Open Road

Since I am a transit geek, I follow MassDOT on Twitter. It has proven to be a useful, though not entirely captivating, source of traffic/MBTA alerts and MassDOT news (new bridges opening, RMV branches closing, Fast Lane transponder sales, etc.) Today, though, they posted a link to something pretty cool on their blog:

Using the data the MBTA recent released for the Google Transit Planner, Monkey At Large created an animation of a day’s worth of subway traffic, using resources provided by the Executive Office of Transportation Developers Page.

Now, first of all, maybe I hadn’t been clicking through the Twitter updates a whole bunch, but I didn’t know MassDOT had a blog, too — a frequently updated one, at that. What more, they’re finding cool content that other people are creating and linking to it, in addition to posting their own information (and videos).

They’re also building community — not just through their Twitter presence and blog, but for the developers who will find new, cool ways to manipulate the raw stuff of transit data into something riders can not only use, but perhaps be entertained by.

We all complain about the Big Dig and the MBTA fare hikes and late buses, but I think that just shows how deeply we all care about transportation. We’re all invested in it, one way or another, whether we like it or not. We can’t help but care. Tapping into that investment and getting people excited by some aspect of it can only serve the agency well. Who knows, if agencies like MassDOT can keep finding ways to inform, engage and entertain us on the web, maybe we’ll look more kindly on them the next time our train breaks down or Pike tolls go up. Maybe.

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