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In Seattle, Tracking Buses in Real-Time

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, July 7 2010

Here's an example of something useful made with public data: One Bus Away, an open-source application that gets data on bus schedules and locations in and around Seattle to show you in real time where your bus is, where it's going to be, and when it should get there.

Local TV news station KING 5, in King County, Wash., had this recent report, including the following exchange:

It's pretty sad to say it [smart phone] has my life on it," Joyce told KING 5.

Every day, Jen saves ten minutes with one mobile app in particular -- One Bus Away.

"I can take either the 10 or 11 bus," said Joyce. 'one Bus Away' lets Jen know in real-time when a Metro bus is arriving or late.

The movement to open local governments using access to their data is taking off rapidly in municipalities, and based on the reports we've seen about apps coming from San Francisco, Boston and other cities, and from conversations over the last few months with some of the open-government and open-data advocates based here in New York, to be gaining particular traction around apps for public transit. Advocates here in New York have described this as the first step in making government more responsive and maybe, ultimately, more participatory — working on projects like this is a chance to build trust between entrepreneurs outside government and staffers within it who are willing to experiment.

Seattle is one of a few notable open-source service delivery testbeds in the nation, alongside San Francisco, Ca., Boston, Mass., New Haven, Conn. — home to the third-party public nuisance management system SeeClickFix — New York, N.Y., where techPresident hangs out; and tiny Manor, Tex., an Austin suburb which has its own Expert Labs-style think tank on how to use open data and other technologies to make the city better. Here's Seattle's open data repository.