Photo by JLaw45.

DC just launched Where’s My Bus, a NextBus-type service for the Circulator. Unlike NextBus, it won’t predict how long it will take for the next buses to arrive; instead, it tells riders how far away the next buses are.

This wasn’t your typical, slow, expensive, complicated, closed government information system. According to the press release:

The DC Government developed the Circulator bus mobile application in house, completing the project remarkably quickly and at minimal cost ... As an “open source” application, any municipality with a similar bus system and real-time GPS data can adapt and implement the application at minimal cost ...

All Circulator data is being made publicly available to encourage other developers in our area to build their own, better applications. The intention is that the tools made available by the District Government would be replicated by other transit agencies across the country, allowing it to transform the way transit information is shared.

DC is working on an iPhone application, which they hope to launch in late summer.

Once Metro launches NextBus, it would be great to find ways to integrate the two. Can NextBus load in the Circulator data as well, or at least provide links from its interface? Most likely, that would take substantial inter-agency coordination and cost WMATA money in development costs. A better approach would be for Metro to create a simple Web services interface to NextBus, allowing other applications to query it for data. That would allow enterprising developers to build applications that show the fastest bus route from one point to another on Metrobus or Circulator.

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.