Do you have an app for that?

Posted on August 27, 2010 by Nicole Schlosser

From Blacksburg Transit's VT Bus Tracker for Virginia Tech to King County Metro and the University of Washington’s One Bus Away, transit systems linked with universities seem to be leading the way with open source technology. They are not only providing real-time arrival information to riders, but also giving them mobile access, through iPhone and Android applications, as well as offering text versions, for those of us still woefully trapped in 2007 and without a smart phone. (I know, what am I thinking? I do plan to correct this soon.)


From what I can see, there is a huge disparity among transit agencies across the country in terms of the information they are providing to riders. For example, one of my local transit agencies appears to be trapped even further back in time than I am, based on the looks of its Website. Forget about bus tracking apps; there’s not even a trip planner. That takes me back to 2005 at least.


I don’t bring this up to knock any agencies; I know full well how tight funding and resources are out there, especially now. I just wonder if there is a way to get more of these transit agencies that could really benefit from sharing their open source data partnered with local tech experts who know how to turn it into easily accessed information for any rider or potential passenger.


According to Mary Meeker and other analysts at Morgan Stanley, mobile Internet use is going to overtake desktop Internet by 2014, EconomyWatch reports. Less than three years away. If the transit agencies that haven’t already reached out to their mobile phone-equipped riders don’t soon, they may risk losing them.


So, what about your agency? Are you providing mobile access to real-time info or working on it? If not, are you dealing with particular hurdles or is it just not a priority?


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