If you're in Iowa City and waiting for a bus, Iowa City Transit's Bus on the Go app makes it easy to use your smartphone to find out when your bus will arrive. And if you're waiting for one of Washington, DC's terrific Circulator buses or Metro trains, you can use the "Where's My Bus?" or "Next Train Arrival" app.
Better transit information makes for better planning. For example, if the temperature outside is 25 degrees, knowing when the next bus will arrive at your stop means less waiting in the cold. And when people can plan their travel with greater confidence--knowing with more certainty that the bus or train will get them where they're going on time--they are more likely to ride transit.
But not all transit riders are so fortunate. In fact, a review of 276 transit agency systems revealed that only 45 of them provide some information on mobile devices. And of those 45 agencies, only 15 offered their riders the real-time information precise planning requires.
We think we can do better for our nation's transit riders. So last week, Deputy Secretary John Porcari and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra gathered a variety of stakeholders to see what we can do to help millions more transit riders get better access to information.
Some transit agencies want to share this information with their customers, but lack the resources. So one of the challenges for the folks around the table was to find a way to reduce the cost of providing the data in a format that can make riders' lives easier.
Other agencies around the country are less certain about opening their data to the public. Aneesh Chopra reminded particpants that the experience of the Obama Administration's Open Gov initiative suggests that, "Openness empowers people with information to make decisions."
One more obstacle is the variety of standards used to structure transit data. But we're confident that further discussion can help achieve greater consensus about technical issues.
That's one of the challenges stakeholders will be working on as these conversations continue. But the key is ensuring that they do continue. DOT and the Obama Administration got things rolling and will stay involved, but now it's time for the nation's transit agencies, app developers, and riders to move the ball down the field.
In America, we do big things. We solve problems. And if the transit community leverages the momentum we generated with last week's meeting, I know we'll find solutions that expand transit use and get people where they're going more effectively.