The campaign for openness in transit schedule data, and Metro’s agreement to publish it online, made the front page of today’s Washington Post Metro section.

Metro plans to post all its bus and rail schedules and routes on the transit agency’s Web site starting Monday, a long-awaited move that will allow third parties such as Google Transit to use the data to offer online tools to help riders navigate the system. …

“If I want to go from the Jackson Graham Building to Dupont Circle, I just right-click ‘from here’ and ‘to here’ and I get a pull-down menu that lets me do it ‘by transit,’ and it’s a lot fewer clicks and displays in a map,” said Michael Perkins, a Navy engineer and self-described “transit geek.” Besides, he said, many people are familiar with Google because they use it to find driving directions. Perkins helped organize the online petition drive, which flooded Metro board members with more than 700 e-mails late last year.

Rider interest helped “raise the profile” of the issue, said Metro board member Chris Zimmerman, adding that several members had been pushing the idea well before the petition campaign. …

Riders applauded Metro’s decision to make the data available to everyone, saying it was better than an exclusive agreement with Google with legal restrictions on the agency. The decision means that any enterprising software developer could come up with an application for an online tool and that all riders would benefit, said David Alpert of greatergreaterwashington.org, a Washington-based blog on transportation and urban issues. The blog organized the petition drive.

Reporter Lena Sun goes on to write that the license terms will require the users of the data to “exempt the transit agency from liability” for anything that might go wrong from using the data. According to Google, they’ll have to look at the license terms before deciding for sure whether to launch the data on Google Transit.

Whether this is a reasonable provision or not depends on the specifics. I am not a lawyer, but if it simply says something like, “Metro provides this data as is with no warranty,” that seems fair. After all, Google crawls this site without requiring an express agreement from me. If Metro’s license requires the group downloading the data to expressly indemnify Metro against any lawsuits, to the point of paying Metro’s court costs, that could not only deter Google from using it, but deter a small garage developer from building innovative applications. It sounds like Metro means the former. We’ll know Monday.

Visiting Greater Greater Washington after reading about us in the Post? Welcome! Here are some other recent articles you might enjoy.

Concerning the Google Transit schedule data:

NextBus and openness in real-time arrival info:

Metro budget:

Transit vision maps:

Urban planning and development:

And 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.