Boston Public Transit Does It Right: Opens Scheduling Data

from the nice-move dept

We were just talking about how NY’s public transit authority, the MTA was following in the footsteps of other short-sighted transit groups, by claiming ownership of scheduling data, and trying to squeeze license fees for anyone who uses it. Instead, if they were smart, they’d recognize that their money is made by making it easier and more convenient for people to take public transportation. It appears there are at least a few public transit authorities that recognize this. Rosedale points out that up in Boston, the MBTA is actually taking an open approach to its data. They’re opening up all of the data and allowing developers to create their own apps:

“Our priority is to consistently improve customer service for the riders who rely on the T and RTAs everyday to get to their job or their doctor’s appointment on time,” said Transportation Secretary Aloisi. “With the help of thoughtful technical developers, making this data public will spawn many possible applications to help transit users use their cell phones or laptops to find and use the right bus or train in the right place at the right time for them.”

Nice to see at least a few out there who have figured this out.

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Companies: mbta

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Comments on “Boston Public Transit Does It Right: Opens Scheduling Data”

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AW says:

So being from Boston and living in Boston during 9/11 I have to say that this does pose some security risks. While opening up real time travel would have been absolutely awesome when I went to school, as the T(what we call the MBTA) is the only real transportation aside from good ol’ shoe leather, which I also highly recommend in Boston, especially in the wee hours of the morning, when the city is quiet and the Sun is just coming up over the bay. I digress though, I am sure my love for my city is apparent. Allowing for certain people to know exactly when trains enter and exit areas would allow for precision attacks. So cool idea overall, but it needs to be weighed against security. One attack in the right place, I do have a specific place though I decline to share, and the city would be shut down for months or longer.

Jrosen (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh give me a break. I lived in the Boston area (Somerville to be exact) during 9/11. Outside of some scares and overreactions nothing happened in Boston that I can remember.

To go with the rather cliche saying now… To not do things (especially useful ones like, help commuters and tourists get where they need to go) because of the ‘threat’ of terrorism, then the terrorists have already won. We are FAR from being the only country that has to deal with that threat, and hardly even in the top five of ones that deal with the reality on a regular basis.

John says:

MBTA needs to release real-time info

Now they need to just start to release the real-time information. MBTA has had GPS on all of the buses for several months. I’d be much more likely to ride if I could have some idea of when different buses would arrive. I can only imagine the cool mashups that people could create from this data.

Rosedale (profile) says:

To be fair

To be fair this took a long time in coming and a lot of complaints. I personally am an every day rider. To work and back from work. So by now I’ve figured out most things on my own. Still I find myself in uncharted waters from time to time and this info is invaluable. I know when I was in NYC for vacation my iPhone was used to ride public transit. Without it I would have used their subway a lot less.

From what I can tell there are a lot of great computer geeks in the area planning on some great projects with this new data. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.

Emily says:

NYC way easier to use than Boston

I lived in NYC for 5 years and have now lived in Boston for 3. Releasing scheduling data in Boston is way more important in releasing it NYC simply because Boston is so user-unfriendly to begin with. As a resident who regularly uses the subway, there is very little planning needed to travel around NYC since the subways are so frequent and the lines are so numerous. In Boston however, it seems that a large portion of transit users live on bus lines that require a certain amount of planning and coordination to use. Where I live now in Brighton, only a die-hard transit supporter or low-income resident would put up with hassle of linking up buses that run every half hour or hour just to travel over to Cambridge (a ten minute drive).

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