Solving Cities

For better transit, we need open data

Posting in Design

Statistics show that U.S. transit agencies aren't sharing data with customers.

Nobody wants to be stuck at a bus stop and not know when the next bus is coming.

But looking at these stats from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about access to transit information, it happens more than it should.

Of the 276 transit agencies reviewed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, only 45 provide information on a mobile device. And even worse, only 15 of those 45 offer real-time transit information.

Sec. LaHood acknowledges that some transit agencies want to share transit info with customers but lack resources. The soultion? Open data.

Boston's MBTA had one solution. They discovered that opening the data from their system to the public actually reduced their own costs because app developers and everyday citizens took the data and designed ways to make it useful to riders. One coffee shop actually has installed a real-time countdown sign that tells customers when the next train is due at a nearby station.

It's an important step for transit agencies, because the less people have to guess about when the next bus or train is coming, the more transit can compete with the feeling of freedom that comes with driving.

Photo: garryknight/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure