Monday, January 27, 2014

TARC Real-Time Bus Data Published to Google

TARC had a January 17, 2014 press conference with the Metro Government about releasing their real-time bus data to the public and to Google.  Google is now absorbing it and using it automatically to adjust schedules when you get tarnsit directions on your desktop (Google hasn't updated their mobile apps with any real-time data from any city yet).  

They also worked with Trapeze to create a decent trip planner (desktop only) that shows the real time location of each bus.  Interestingly, this web app is getting the bus locations every 3 seconds (here, though no data without post request and header info - look at developer console to see JSON data being returned) through an AJAX request, while the public feed is only updated every 60 seconds.  That's an unfortunate difference...

With the public feed, I was able to create a real-time snapshot of every active bus in the city, along with info about how early/late it is, next stop arrival time, route, etc.  Again, this only really works well on a desktop. We have created a developer API to allow anyone get the positions and meta data of each bus for thier own ( hopefully better) app or website.

Ted Smith announced at the press conference that the city would be having a $1,000 developer contest to create the best service that helps get people riding the bus and visiting local businesses and attractions.  As of now (Jan 27), there is no information on the rules, deadlines, or details of this contest.

It does make me think of The Next Bus app I developed for the Society of News Design's international conference, which was held in Louisville in November.  There was a 24 hour hack-a-thon called Hacktucky that my team won, though the other 4 teams made some great products too.  The Next Bus was a site that did just what this contest requires: gets people riding the bus to local destinations with minimal effort and real-time bus tracking.  

While currently there is no way to get Louisville real-time bus data on your mobile device, there are 4 Apple iOS apps I found that have transit data for Louisiville and other cities, and real-time locations for some cities, so these might be adding Louisville real-time data soon.

HopStop - The only public transit app you'll ever need.

Transit App -  Whereever you are, instantly know when the next bus or train is arriving.

Transit Directions - Transit app provides public transportation navigation for your iPhone/iPad.

Roadify - Getting around your city is easier than ever.

Let's hope that after the city's contest is announced and finished, we have a few good local services that use TARC's real-time bus data.