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:
- Metro refuses to participate in Google Transit (Dec 13, 2008)
- Metro responds: wanted money from Google Transit (Dec 16, 2008)
- Google Transit is not about the $68,000, it’s about openness (Dec 18, 2008)
- Google Transit isn’t about Google (Jan 8)
- Metro “punts”: Will release transit schedule data for Google and others (Mar 11)
NextBus and openness in real-time arrival info:
- WMATA removes NextBus public test (Mar 3)
- Catoe: NextBus beta “doesn’t make sense for Metro” (Mar 6)
- DDOT: NextBus not the answer for Circulator (Mar 17)
- Metro: inaugural champion and economic casualty? (Feb 5)
- Performance park our Metro garages (Feb 23)
- Using stimulus money for Metro operations? Make a plan to pay it back (Mar 11)
- Fund Ride-On, not subsidized parking, says Transit First (Mar 16)
Transit vision maps:
- What WMATA is really suggesting for 2050 (Apr 28, 2008)
- The Metro Express (Feb 19, 2009)
- Greater Baltimore & Washington Transit Future (Feb 25, 2008)
- Greater Baltimore & Washington Transit Future pocket version (Jun 12, 2008)
- Brown Line: We don’t need a new color (Oct 7, 2008)
- No bloody slashes, dashes or unnecessary acronyms: renaming the Metro stations (Mar 10, 2009)
Urban planning and development:
- Smart growth, dumb process: Tenley-Janney will proceed without PPP (Mar 16)
- What’s “passive green space”? (Mar 3)
- Cheh: “broad-based support” for Wisconsin Giant project
- How to create a successful urban stadium (Feb 18)
- An even better Brookland (Feb 2)