Responding to our requests, WMATA is creating a comprehensive system for web, mobile, and other software applications to access a wide variety of transit information, including bus positions, rail arrival predictions, schedules, elevator outages, rail disruptions, and more.

According to a presentation for Thursday’s WMATA Board meeting, the $30,000 “Transparent Metro Data Sets” project will open up data to third-party developers, including Google and anyone else interested.

On the bus system, that data will include real-time bus locations, “shape files” and data for routes, stop locations, and schedules. (The bus arrival predictions are NextBus’s IP, calculated by their proprietary algorithms, but the bus locations are not).

On rail, Metro will release station locations and information, “line summary” and “line detail” (not sure what those are), the rail routes, real-time arrival predictions, service disruptions and elevator and escalator outages.

According to the presentation, they will conduct a “phased rollout” including the first services by “end of summer,” and work with developers including an application contest like Boston’s.



The presentation specifically mentions how many people have requested this data, including “regionally-focused websites and bloggers” as well as merchants, retailers, and tourism and hospitality groups, which hope to put bus and rail arrival displays, similar to the one in the Arlington County office lobby, into hotels and other places.

It doesn’t give any specific update about the state of supposedly-ongoing contract negotiations with Google, and I hope Board members can ask about this on Thursday. As before, the legal terms under which WMATA releases the data for third parties will also be crucial to driving or hindering adoption.

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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.