By Globe Staff
Describing it as "an historic step toward openness and transparency," the state Executive Office of Transportation announced today that the MBTA released detailed scheduling and geographic data for the Google Transit Trip Planner.
The plain English translation: Information about the MBTA's bus, rail, and ferry routes may soon be available on iPhones and BlackBerrys. The release of the data will allow computer programmers to create applications for phones and other mobile devices specifically geared for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
"The power of this is giving information and data to outside developers to create mobile applications Ö and/or web-based tools," said Colin Durrant, deputy secretary for communications and policy for the state department of transportation, in an e-mail. "By 'democratizing this data' (a term I like to use) we're allowing people to create tools that T riders and residents will find helpful -- we're allowing the user to create the tool themselves."
Other large transit systems such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Portland have taken similar steps and allowed developers to create applications for mobile phones at no cost to the transportation agencies, according to a release from the state department of transportation. The transit data in Massachusetts will also include an information feed for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Lexpress, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, Metrowest Regional Transit Authority, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, and Vineyard Transit.
The full press release follows below:
Boston, MA -- The Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) today announced an historic step toward openness and transparency by releasing to the public the detailed scheduling and geographic data the MBTA submitted for use in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The initiative is part of the Patrick Administrationís commitment to comprehensive transportation reform and creating a modern, efficient, and customer-friendly transportation system.
The MBTA becomes the 3rd largest transit agency in the U.S. to make this data public in a format that is converted into the industry-standard Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) using existing scheduling software. The data includes full schedules and geographic information for all MBTA bus, rail, and ferry routes, along with several Regional Transit Authorities. Similar efforts in other areas, such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Portland, have allowed third-party developers to create useful applications and scheduling tools for riders at no cost to the city, agency, or state, vastly improving customer service.
Secretary James A. Aloisi, Jr. praised MBTA's Operations and Service Development team and EOT partners for making possible the scheduling data availability.
"Our priority is to consistently improve customer service for the riders who rely on the T and RTAs everyday to get to their job or their doctorís appointment on time," said Transportation Secretary Aloisi. "With the help of thoughtful technical developers, making this data public will spawn many possible applications to help transit users use their cell phones or laptops to find and use the right bus or train in the right place at the right time for them."
The data will be located on the EOT Developersí Page (www.mass.gov/eot/developers), which is the one-stop place to open up to the public useful transportation data across the state. The page will now include nine sets of GTFS data from transit authorities, making Massachusetts a global leader in embracing this open standard for transit data.
Information on the page includes GTFS data for the MBTA, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Lexpress, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, Metrowest Regional Transit Authority, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Vineyard Transit, and ferry services.
Already, a well-known application called UniBus is utilizing this data for all agencies, creating an easy-to-use statewide transit scheduler for the iPhone.
Other developers have expressed interest in the data and expect to release applications in the coming months. EOT has reached out to these developers, holding a developersí meeting and engaging the community through Twitter and Google Groups, and hopes to expand its data and incorporate more information in real-time.
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