Capital Bikeshare Hackers Pedal Their Wares at Mobility Lab

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Michael is senior tech advisor for Mobility Lab. He specializes in photography and cool transportation visualizations, and he leads Transportation Techies DC.
December 11, 2013

The Washington region has a new home for programmers who love playing with transportation data. The Transportation Techies meetup group welcomes technologists and the “code curious” to our meetings, which will mostly be show & tell demos of cool apps and visualizations.

Our debut meetup explored cool programs built around Capital Bikeshare’s open data. The first of our six presentations was from Daniel Gohlke, who works for Alta Bicycle Share, the operator of CaBi. He showed us his CaBi Tracker tool, which tracks the dock status, making it easy find out when stations are more likely to be empty or full.

In fact, it was Daniel’s work with this app that led to his being hired by Alta, where he has continued to work to turn the app into a comprehensive dashboard used by employees. Daniel shared an inside look at the data available to Capital Bikeshare to manage the docks and make re-balancing easier.

Next up was Zach Rausnitz, who used CaBi’s supply of trip-history data to build a tool and conduct his own analysis of the system. His Bikeshare Trip Timer lets you study patterns gleaned from nearly 2 million trips taken in 2013. Users can examine trips between any two stations, comparing the average CaBi rider’s trip duration to estimated times for driving, transit, biking and walking from Google Map’s algorithms.

Justin Grimes introduced us to the concept of “quantified self,” whereby he measures as much of his life as possible. As a CaBi member, he wanted access to his own trip history data. Justin teamed up with Harlan Yu to write a CaBi screen-scraper, which takes your data from the CaBi web site and exports it. Justin used the data to create an animated log of his trips.

Chris Given showed us a project he worked on as part of his work with Code for DC. His Bikeshare Odds program lets you figure out how early you have to get to a station to snag a bike. It uses historical data from October 2010 to September 2013 to calculate the chances that a bikeshare station will have a bike at a given time.

Mark Sloan and Jessica Morefield showed us a 3D CaBi visualization developed at their Arlington-based company SynGlyphX, which creates interactive, 3D data visualizations.  Their tool allows users to visually explore complex datasets — in this case the trip-history data from CaBi — offering an intuitive way to discover usage patterns. Their demonstrations page has sample videos of other bike data in action.

I closed the program out with a survey of four different CaBi visualizations I’ve created. The Voronoi Diagram of CaBi stations creates an interactive diagram where your cursor location becomes a new CaBi station, with borders drawn to show which station is the closest. The CaBi Range program shows you how far you can travel within a given time range. The Trip Visualizer lets you analyze trip history patterns. The Activity Mapper animates CaBi data, comparing bike-ins to bike-outs, casual riders to registered riders, on-time trips to late trips, and more.

Mobility Lab graciously hosted our meetup, giving local techies a chance to meet in person, and to engage in discussions with others who love CaBi and its open data. And we were even surprised to get an unexpected visit from Santa. You can see more detailed notes from the meeting on our hackpad.

You are welcome to join us next month for our Metro Hack Night, when we’ll see what interesting tools and visualizations can be made about WMATA’s bus and rail network. If you’re a local programmer who loves transit, please join Transportation Techies, and we’ll see you in the new year.

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avatar Tom Fairchild December 12, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Daniel Gohlke’s path to his work at Alta is inspirational. After creating the CabiTracker tool to satisfy his own curiosity, Daniel posted it to the web at Cabitracker.com in 2011. Soon his tool caught the attention of Alta personnel as the best way for them to monitor the Capital Bikeshare system, which they manage. Not long after that he was hired by Alta to maintain and expand their technology tools. Great job! Techies clearly do make a difference!

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