Photo by marc e marc.

Metro has posted the Google Transit-formatted schedule and routing information on its new “Developer Resources” page. Developers have already expressed plans to add Metro to Walkscore’s Transit Time Maps very soon. If you discover other tools that incorporate this data, please post in the comments.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the site, at least from my end: There’s an infinite loop. After signing the agreement and trying to download, the site redirects you back to the agreement again.  Or the links lead you to a “file not found” error message. Some commenters report they’ve been able to get the feed, so it appears to be working now.

The agreement contains this provision:

Indemnity: Licensee agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless WMATA and its officers, directors, and employees from and against all fines, suits, proceedings, claims, causes of action, demands, or liabilities of any kind or of any nature arising out of or in connection with Licensee’s use of the Service or the Data.

Are there any attorneys out there that want to opine on “defend”?  Does that mean you have to pay WMATA’s court costs and attorney fees?  I think this will be a big sticking point for Google and other developers, and would likely limit the usefulness of the data. Update: an attorney friend of mine who wanted it clear that this was “not legal advice” said that you would have to pay for WMATA’s costs if they were sued due to a problem with your program.

In another part of the license, WMATA also reserves the right to start charging for the data:

License Fee: WMATA does not currently charge a license fee to download the Data. However, WMATA reserves the right to institute a license fee at any time in the future without prior notice.

It’s bad policy to charge a license fee for this data. WMATA has no idea who might tinker with this data and release a great new tool for free.  The cost of development and distribution of software tools is very, very low, so charging for the use of data is a real barrier to hobbyist development.

Metro should keep the data free. The extra ridership they’ll get from riders better understanding the system will far exceed the time Metro may spend updating and releasing the data.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, including all the petition signers, Metro Board members, and Metro staff.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.