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Hacker Charity Helps Detroit Buses Take Tech Leap: Real Time Arrival Info by Text

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

It may be called the Motor City, but a third of Detroiters don't have a car. They depend on the bus and it ain't easy. In the past few years, riders have suffered three-hour waits, dangerous conditions culminating in a driver strike, and watched service cut by a third. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing even suggested privatizing the bus system as a possible way to make ends meet in the municipal budget. These are gloomy times for the city's transit users.

But on Tuesday, Detroit's battered bus system took a leap forward -- not to mention a leap over some other larger bus systems. Riders can now text their location to "50464" and receive the next arrival time of the nearest bus -- not scheduled arrival but actual projections based on the location of the bus at that moment. It's designed for people who ride the bus every day: school kids, teenagers, folks who don't own a car. This isn't a fancy smart phone app -- anyone with text messaging service can use this. New York City has experimented with a similar plan but hasn't rolled it out citywide yet.

(click to enlarge)

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing issued a statement calling the new #TextMyBus service "an essential resource for all of our citizens as we continue our efforts to improve DDOT service and provide reliable bus transportation.”

To pull this off, Detroit's Department of Transportation partnered with the Federal Transit Administration, the Detroit Public School system, the White House Strong Cities initiative, and the Knight Foundation. It also managed to wrangle three "fellows" from Code for America, which calls itself "a Peace Corps for geeks."

CfA is a nonprofit organization that sends web designers, computer engineers, and software coders to beleaguered cities around the country. These fellows then work with city agencies on digital improvements for the collective good.

In Detroit's case, #TextMyBus is CfA's first project. The group's fellows are also working on other projects, including a way to streamline the process to buy city-owned property.

For those of you not in Detroit, the online brochure -- partially excerpted above -- does a good job explaining how the app works.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Detroit's Furious Bus Riders, NYC Taxis To Remove "Off-Duty" Signs, LA To Get More Bikeways

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Transit, Jobs, Construction Noise: Rockland Residents Air Worries About Swiftly Approaching Tappan Zee Bridge Project (Link)
Transit Museum Forum on Back of the Bus is TONIGHT (Link)
NY City Council Bill Would Up Electric Bike Fine (Link)
Study: Only 28 Percent of Neighborhoods Affordable (Link)
As GOP Struggles in Michigan, Obama Chortles — Says Fuel Efficient Cars Will Save $8000 (Link)
New Prospect Park Drive: Defined Lanes, Less Room for Cars (Link)

A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica thinks that critics who believe Congress can pass a better transportation bill next year are “smoking the funny weed.” (Politico)

Detroit transit riders are outraged over huge bus cuts -- and the mayor's hiring of a private contractor to manage the city's troubled transportation department -- and plan to seek federal help in reversing the mayor's decisions. (Detroit Free Press)

New York Times editorial: the proposed Tappan Zee greenway "could be a splendid public attraction." (Link)

NYC cabs will have to start removing their taxi-top 'off-duty' signs to make way for the new system: available if the medallion number is lit, or unavailable if it’s dark. (New York Daily News)

Rules requiring rear-view video cameras in cars have been delayed again. (AP via Yahoo Finance)

Megabus' weighty double-decker coaches, currently being investigated by New York's Department of Transportation, have run afoul of authorities from Canada to Maryland. (DNA Info)

Worried Democrats want Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices. (The Hill)

The mayor of London said some lines on the Underground would have driverless trains in two years. (Telegraph)

Commercial truck traffic on the NJ Turnpike has declined by 7.5%; high fuel prices and last month's toll hike are cited as possible reasons why. (Star-Ledger)

Nearly five months after a $50 million HOT lane project opened in metro Atlanta, drivers remain dubious, the impact on traffic is unclear, and many questions remain unanswered. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

830 miles of new bikeways have been approved for Los Angeles County. (LAist)

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