Capital Bikeshare has agreed to publicly release more data on trip patterns, similar to data that London already releases. This will let software developers build many useful or just visually stunning applications, maps and videos about CaBi usage.

Since its launch, Capital Bikeshare has offered an XML feed of station locations and the numbers of bikes and empty docks at each. Many other bike sharing systems do the same. Thanks to this, applications like CaBi Tracker have created appealing user interfaces for riders. Mobile apps like SpotCycle show users the nearest stations while they’re on the road. And developers have created visualizations of bike usage over time for the Washington area and many others.

London visualization by Ollie O’Brien.

But there’s a lot people can’t do with just this data. They can’t generate maps like this one or animations like this one showing where people travel to and from, or analyze the daily patterns of travel, since the simple list of station occupancy doesn’t say where a bike that leaves one station travels to.

A group of developers, including the author of CaBi Tracker and folks from the Mobility Lab’s Transit Tech Initiative (for which I am working part-time as product manager), recently spoke with Capital Bikeshare officials about releasing more data. They agreed, and yesterday announced that starting around the new year, CaBi will release more detailed data files.

The data will break down CaBi usage by individual trips, listing when and where each trip starts and ends. It’ll also identify which bike the trip used, enabling visualizations like this one showing the path of an individual bike throughout a day or week.

Image from The Data Studio.

The files won’t reveal any personal information about which customer used it or who the customer is. It won’t let anyone piece together an individual customer’s usage over time. The only member information will be which trips come from “members” (monthly or yearly) versus “casual customers” (daily or 3-day). That will help anyone doing an analysis compare the locations and types of trips taken by regular users versus occasional ones such as tourists.

The wealth of applications that people have already built around CaBi shows how much interest there is from the public in building useful or just cool tools for this popular program. Thankfully, the CaBi leaders appreciate this and have taken a step to empower even more.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.