No doubt many if not most of you are familiar with the Google Maps transit layers – this is a layer of data found in Google maps showing readers current/live public transit data and more. I can’t help to think that in this day and age where the public, developers, industry and more are clamoring for more open government (think OpenGov and Gov2.0) that for a start, most if not all public transit agencies should be making data and transit maps available via this resource . Perhaps this isn’t the only solution available, however, in order for government and government services to be more transparent such services are necessary if not expected by the public. Part of the reason for this rant is that I’m currently living in a city where the public transit system makes little if any “useful” information available to the public – disclaimer: by useful I mean real-time, mobile, current etc…
For my city and others, getting started is very simple. First, consider joining the Google Transit program… this will help your city’s transit system to start delivering your data so it can be shared via Google Maps. The benefits of this will be that data including hopefully real-time transit data and bus locations will be made available via Google maps, but also, developers will then be able to start building apps on this data. the best scenario of developers creating apps with these data is that mobile transit apps will then start surfacing (truly useful and necessary) enabling users to have access to live transit data from mobile apps, again crucial in my mind. See details of the Google Transit Partner Program at http://maps.google.com/help/maps/transit/partners/
Currently over 500 cities world wide make their information available in Google Maps.
Surprisingly, there are very few mobile public transit application available in the Apple iTunes store, however, I have located several fine apps including, the University of Michigan app which also provides a real time transit layer with actual bus locations on the map. Also, the TransLoc (@TransLocTVS) mobile app which shows transit for a number of College campus locations. In Vancouver BC, Canada the TransLink mobile app does a fine job although still, in my mind, falls a little short on usability and for providing real-time data. In my current city of Victoria BC, the public transport data that is currently shared with the public is basically non-existing and in my mind a complete disaster! No doubt as winter weather comes the demand for current public transportation data and updates will be huge and the best way to address this topic will be via mobile apps.
For just a sampling of what can happen when a transportation agency is proactive and even goes as far as opening their data holdings up to developers (See MBTA rider tools info), check out the MBTA in Boston – what a great story also from O’reilly on their efforts!