Tag Archives: massdot

Where’s the Bus? The Bus is On its Way

Tonight, I went to the MassDOT DevelopersWhere’s the Bus? 2.0: The Wait is Over” event, where the MBTA announced the next phase of its real-time data project.

Starting today, the MBTA released real-time data for bus routes 1, 4, 15, 22, 23, 28, 32, 57, 66, 71, 73 and 77. With these routes, on top of the previously released data for routes 39, 111, 114, 116, and 117, data for routes handling one-third of the MBTA’s bus passenger load has been made public. By the end of the summer, the MBTA plans to release real-time data for every bus route in the system and launch a marketing campaign around the availability of real-time bus data.

“We need to be more open and frank,” said recently hired MBTA General Manager Rich Davey, who today began tweeting as @MBTAGM. He stated his focus on “investing and working in the guts of the system.”

All of the MassDOT and MBTA personnel on hand emphasized the need for innovation and creativity to propel the transit agency.

“We’re going to revolutionize riding the bus in Boston,” said project mastermind Joshua Robin, whose hope is that buses become cool enough for people to make t-shirts pimping out their favorite routes.

Larry Rosenshein of NextBus, the company that the MBTA works with to crunch its real-time data and make it feed-ready, referenced this NPR commentary declaring that “practical tech is the sexiest tech,” because of the way it improves our essential quality of life.

Rick Borovoy from the Center for Future Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab talked about community media and art projects that can benefit from this data, including Lost in Boston, which blends public and private spaces to build community, and John Ewing’s Virtual Street Corners, which bridges the gap between spots in the city that are geographically close but worlds apart.

As a huge fan of public transit and a longtime nerd, I am beyond excited about this initiative. I wish I were a programmer just so I could hack together an app this weekend.

Next up after the bus system? The commuter rail.

Photo by Dan4th/Flickr Creative Commons

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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.