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Wanted: A CTA desktop widget like BART's

My post Tuesday about the expansion of the bus GPS program elicited a lot of interest and comments. More than 50 comments at this writing.

One commenter noted that Google Maps has CTA bus and train schedules loaded. If you zoom in on a bus stop or train station (signified with a blue "M"), you'll see schedules for the next arriving train or bus. It's a start, but not real-time info.

Now, San Francisco's BART system has some cool widgets riders can download and run on their desktop. The widget provides service advisories and news in an RSS feed. BART also provides regular news in an RSS feed.

Another Tattler commenter noted that London is just starting to get real-time bus arrival information delivered to LED signs at bus stops.

So, stuff is happening all over, and it's all happening here. Yeah, sure, we can sit back and whine, what took so long, etc. I'll just say thank God and keep monitoring the CTA's progress.

Hat tip to my brother Dan on this one.

Birthday greetings PS, take 2: Yesterday it was brother Dan's birthday, and he's had a few of those already. But today is very special, because my sister-in-law is celebrating her 10th birthday. Yes folks, Penny is a Leap Day Baby. So Happy Birthday to her! If you're a Leap Baby, let's hear from you.

Comments

If CTA offers an API (Application Programing Interface) for Bus Tracker, there will be an endless possibility of cool things that can be done with the data. Everything from mishaps with other services like Google Maps to desktop widgets to customized interfaces for the iPhone/iPod touch.

Correction to that last post... "mashups", not "mishaps"!

Would anyone be interested in going to the CTA as a group and presenting the reasons why the public transit GPS data should be opened?

Bryan...

YES! When is it? That was my whole point on the GPS thread (which some people seemed to miss). Having this "way-cool new technology", to me, is pointless if it doesn't produce anything that points toward improved service. If they've been testing this on the Madison line since '06, there should be SOME sort of data as a result and they should say how that data is being used to improve the bus scheduling. So, yeah, when is the meeting?

I'm all for this too. I'm a programmer by trade and if a side project will make life for me and fellow Chicagoans easier, I'm all for it. I agree the CTA needs an API and need to actually give pertinent data to show (ie the BART link shows detailed 'Service Advisory' text). It would be all for naught if they don't provide the information in a timely manner.

Heh. Closed system. Proprietary. NDA. No way.

I emailed the bus tracker team about an API back in January and it took them 3 weeks to get back to me. Here's what they said:
"Scott,
Great question at this time we are focusing our efforts on testing and validating the current system before deployment. Providing an API interface needs to be understood and planned as we evaluate possible enhancements to the system. Again thank you for contacting the CTA and please continue to use our services.

- Bus Tracker Project Team"

I.E. Bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that halts a discussion before it can even begin.

If there's going to be a collective push from readers at this blog for an API, I want to be part of that. I do research at the University of Chicago in wireless mesh networks.

~ Scott

According to Carole Brown, there's a CTA "citizens" advisory board (read the blog to understand the ironic use of quotes here):

http://ctachair.blogspot.com/2008/02/citizens-advisory-board.html

If enough people are interested in this, maybe we should meet up to discuss what it is we want, then take it to the CAB with examples of how it will benefit the city.

I never ride the busses - but take the red/purple/yellow daily - I'd lve to see a trains widget. That said - I peered through the window of the supervisors shed at Howard last night and saw their new toy - a pc with a train tracking app that shows a rail diagram with every train on whatever line they chose to display - run #, location, motion, and time bick from schedule. There are times that I'd almost kill for that on a smart phone screen.

Could releasing the GPS data make us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks? Just thinking that may be one of the reasons the CTA won't do it. Gotta love the times we live in. Your own personal data is out there hanging in the breeze, but public information needs to be a closely guarded secret.

Bryan...

LOL. Yes, the ironic quotes do make sense. Wonder how many of them ride the CTA to work?

I got dibs on "none".

Amy -

GPS data will already be publicly available on the official Bus Tracker site. The idea is to supply that same data in a format that allows developers to build tools that would make it even more useful.

From the Carole Brown blog:

"The CAB will be having its regularly scheduled public meeting this Wednesday, March 5 at 1PM at CTA’s 567 W. Lake headquarters. CAB Chairman White and I encourage you attend to witness a very informative discussion about CTA’s future direction."

Sounds like I have my lunch plans for March 5. I just HAVE to see this "citizen's board" in person.

I went to Google Maps to try this new bus and train schedule feature. I clicked on my local L stop, Sheridan. According to Google, only the Purple line stops there. I guess they don't read Carole Browne's blog.

http://ctachair.blogspot.com/2008/02/purple-line-and-sheridan-station.html

Kevin, et. al. :

I plan to come to this meeting as well. Hopefully we can talk to someone on the board before / after the meeting--maybe figure out who to talk to / work with at the CTA to get an API project going. I'm not looking to point fingers or interrupt a board meeting, just to be clear.

~ Scott

It won't happen. You're not going to get an API. The contracts won't allow for it. Carol can tell you anything you want to hear but it still won't happen.

We have GPS tracking on BART and MUNI here in San Francisco. It's insane — I just fire up my computer in the morning and know exactly when the bus will be pulling up. I waste no time waiting for the bus, and it's always accurate. Love it.

I live in SF and I am able to get the MUNI GPS arrival info on my cell phone. It is great I check the arrivals at a given station while I am walking there. I live an equal distance between 2 bus routes so I will check it when I get my coffee to see which one I will be able to make first

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