April 8, 2010

King County releases data to programmers

Seattle’s King County Metro Transit (Metro) recently opened up the behind-the-scenes data that supports bus schedules and routes to independent programmers. The agency is doing this to encourage creativity in designing Web or cell phone applications that will make riding Metro easier and more convenient.

 

In recent years, some developers have entered private agreements with Metro to use its data to create an online bus map like Google Transit for Seattle or the popular One Bus Away, a real-time bus locator application started by students at the University of Washington.

 

Metro is now making its data more easily accessible by providing developer support pages on Metro Online with the data in industry standard General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). The data is free of charge to anyone who agrees to the terms of use.

 

“King County is home to some of the best and brightest tech minds in the world, and we want to tap into their ingenuity,” said Metro GM Kevin Desmond. “Our customers love the apps that are already out there for their phones and computers, and we think there is a lot of potential to create more.”

 

Desmond said new Web or mobile applications won’t be “official” Metro products, but may be referenced on Metro Online so Metro customers can choose the ones that work best for them.

 

In the past, Metro used its own data to develop applications like Trip Planner and Bus Time. Trip Planner was so successful that it was expanded into a regional travel planning tool that today incorporates the schedules and routes of many of the largest transportation agencies in the Puget Sound area.

 

Desmond said in these tight budget times Metro doesn’t always have the resources to work on new application projects, and welcomes the chance to make Metro data more available to private developers.

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