For the last few months, I’ve been working with Eric Fidler and David Alpert at the Mobility Lab in Arlington to build tools to help people better understand transit. We’d like you to beta test one of our first creations, Transit Near Me.
Transit Near Me is a web application that shows you transit options around your location, or any other spot in the region. Load the site on your computer or smartphone and it will show all the bus and train lines near your current location. Or click on another spot to see transit near there. If you zoom out, you can see where all of those lines can take you.
Although our region has a great many transit options, people aren’t often aware of services near their home or workplace. The bus system in particular can be very confusing, since the many different lines make maps hard to read.
How often have you seen a bus in your neighborhood and not known where it stops or where it goes? Transit Near Me tries to help people learn about nearby services that they might not be aware of in a simple and easy way.
The Mobility Lab, part of Arlington County Commuter Services, brought together people interested in transit and open data through a Hack Day and other events earlier this year. We’ve been developing this and other open source tools, which will ultimately be available to everyone through Arlington’s regional transit resource, CommuterPage.com.
In the spirit of open source, want to show you early on what we’re building. Transit Near Me isn’t yet a complete product, but it does enough to let you benefit from it and give us your feedback.
Clicking on a stop’s icon on Transit Near Me will open a small popup with information about the lines servicing that stop. Clicking on a route will show information about what line it is and where the route goes. In the coming months, we plan to add schedule information and arrival predictions to these popups.
To reduce the visual complexity, Transit Near Me only displays the closest stop for each line, even if there are multiple stops nearby. It shows all of the service that’s available in the area, even if some of the lines only run at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. Ultimately, we hope to allow you to filter by time and date.
The site currently includes data from Metrorail, Metrobus, Circulator, and ART. It can easily incorporate any dataset in the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) format, the open format that many transit agencies around the country use to provide their routes and schedules to software developers.
Tools like Transit Near Me are possible because WMATA, Circulator, ART and a few other agencies provided their data in this open format and offer useful Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This enables software developers to build tools that better inform riders and help transit agencies attract new customers.
In the near future, we hope to add data from other transit providers that are able to similarly release their data. In addition, we want to include other transit-like services such as Capital Bikeshare and slug lines, and add real-time arrival data.
Unfortunately, some of the publicly available route data has errors, so you may encounter some places where things don’t look quite right. A future project could add a feedback form that lets users to mark spots that need correcting and even suggest the right routes.
We’re interested in any feedback or suggestions on the app, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Since this is just a beta release, you might encounter some bugs or find that it doesn’t work perfectly on some browsers or mobile devices. Let us know about any problems you find, and we’ll work to get them fixed.
As with all the fellowship projects, Transit Near Me is open source. You can find the code on github, and we welcome contributions from any interested programmers.