As the MTA has expanded the widely popular countdown clocks throughout the A Division stations, a common cry has concerned the lack of publicly-available real-time data. As I mentioned during my talk at the Transit Museum last month, Transit is sitting on a wealth of data that could redefine how we ride and wait for trains if only they would make the feeds from the countdown clocks available in real time.
A tidbit in this month’s MTA Board book reveals that the authority may read to release the data. According to the procurement summary, Acquia, Inc. has bid $771,758 on a contract to install cloud-based infrastructure and a web application that will allow the MTA to offer a real-time feed of train location data to the public.
“The MTA can build on that success” of the countdown clocks, the Board materials read, “and expand our customer’s access to real-time data exponentially if the MTA creates a web feed for application software developers. Creation of an MTA web feed of subway arrival estimates for A Division lines 1 through 6 will make it possible for app developers to deliver real-time information currently displayed in countdown clocks to our customers’ cell phones, smartphones and other hand-held digital devices.”
Such a feed would be a welcome addition to the transit app landscape and would allow straphangers to eliminate the element of surprise from many of their off-peak subway trips. According to the MTA documents, 37 percent of the daily ridership would gain access to any apps that incorporate real-time subway data, and in the future, the MTA would provide real-time subway arrival estimates from B Division routes as well.
To get this effort off the ground, the MTA will leverage an existing New York State Senate contract with Acquia to use cloud computing and Drupal as a content management and development frameworks. The authority aims to spend just over $521,000 with a contingency of $250,000 included in the bid. It is worth the cost.
“A launch of a web feed for lines 1 through 6 would significantly improve customer service and being to deliver the same level of customer service available to those who use mass transit in other major U.S. and world cities, including London, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington,” the staff summary said. I’m looking forward to it.