Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

King County, Wash.'s Open Data Turned Into Real-Time Bus Tracking App

July 7, 2010 By

Brian Ferris doesn't drive. He lives in one of the rainier cities on the West Coast and uses public transportation to get around. And he's not the only one.

A grad student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Ferris saw the need for better public transit information. So in his spare time, he wrote code that's now used for OneBusAway -- an open source application that aggregates bus data in real time, allowing users to view whether their ride is on time, early or late.

"Now you know: 'Am I going to be here five minutes, 30 minutes, or do I go do something else?'" the OneBusAway creator said. And especially with weather being such a factor in people's daily lives, knowing when the bus will arrive is a huge asset, Ferris said.

King County IT officials hope others will emulate Ferris' efforts in the coming months as they plan to make hundreds of data sets available that can be made into useful apps. "We're looking to make raw data available to citizens and innovators in the area so they can develop apps that frankly, we don't have the money to develop ourselves," said King County Deputy Director of IT Enterprise Business Solutions Trever Esko.

Esko is spearheading the county's open data initiative, which will include a website that displays its open data sets. Once available in raw form, people can play with the information as they please, and some already have app ideas, Esko said.

At a public forum held in early June, attendees were asked to brainstorm what they'd like to see done with the county's public information. One idea spawned was the ability to take restaurant health inspections and mesh it with mapped crime data and mapped parking lot information, Esko said. "And create an app that tells a citizen, 'Here's how I get to a restaurant, here's how I park, but here's the crime statistics in the neighborhood,'" he said.

Another open forum will be held in August, during which citizens will receive lists of the county's data sets, which will include health-care statistics, crime statistics and restaurant health information, Esko said.

"Citizens can see it online, download it, collaborate, ask questions, or maybe even other citizens working with the data can answer questions for them," Esko said.

For now, the OneBusAway app -- available in multiple operating systems, including the iPhone and Android -- is the first app to be created from the county's open data. To be fair, the public transportation data set is the only one available online.

But its popularity has already been measured. The iPhone app has been downloaded 40,000 times, OneBusAway is used by 25,000 unique users a week and Ferris has surveyed how it's changed transportation behavior as part of his grad study work.

"People are more satisfied with public transit, spend less time waiting, take transit more frequently and feel safer at bus stops," he said. "People actually reported walking more."


| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All