Lab Project #2: Hosting Transit Techs – collaborating for better applications

Open data seems to be all the rage these days with sources ranging from WMATA to the Federal Government’s Data.gov.  But honestly, who wants to sit down and read data tables?  Clearly the true power of open data comes with strategic applications that showcase the information in useful ways.

Mobility Lab’s first projects are developed to unleash the power of open transit data.  Our region’s transportation network is a system created incrementally by personal choice: “should I take the train?  walk?  bus?  drive?”  Opening the transportation planning process to the widest possible audience is a great step to building a system that works for the greatest number of people.  Making the system run effectively requires that each person be accommodated with the best possible information.  With these credos in mind, Mobility Lab has been at work.

On Saturday July 23rd, Mobility Lab hosted a symposium of transit application developers to brainstorm opportunities for developing new tools utilizing the open data in order to help people efficiently use transportation.  The event was cosponsored with GreaterGreaterWashington.org and OpenPlans.org.  These organizations brought expertise from years of work at Google and from leading similar transportation technology events in New York and San Francisco.

The day offered individuals time to show-off applications they have developed independently as well as a brainstorming exercise of useful tools the group could develop collaboratively.  Clearly the event demonstrates there’s a very fertile intersection between the group’s technical skills, open source transit data and the public’s need for better tools.

A follow-up “Transit Hack Day” is scheduled in September, when the group plans to further develop 2 or 3 of the brainstormed ideas.  To facilitate collaboration between group members, a Wiki has been set-up to share code and ideas.  All work developed by the group will be open source.  With enthusiasm, talent and a collaborative spirit, the Transit Tech Group is optimistic about creating success!

Open data + open source + Mobility Lab = individuals empowered for a better transportation system!

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