Tab A Now Fits in Slot B

Warning: this is a little techno-geeky. But it’s a significant win for those of us who care about open transit data.

Until very recently, you could get a TriMet data feed for your transit application without any problem, and you could get NextBus data for Streetcar arrivals, as long as your application was non-commercial.

But NextBus has now published new terms of service that do not limit commercial applications. You can access these from the Portland/Regional CivicApps datasets page (requires login).

If you haven’t seen CivicApps yet, check it out, a wealth of public data is now coming online for your consumption!

Next up – getting the Streetcar data included in TriMet’s arrival feed so you only need to access one feed (the obstacle to this is NOT technical)…


7 responses to “Tab A Now Fits in Slot B”

  1. Streetcars have GPS — are we able to actually get that information through any of these APIs, or just arrival times?

    I want to be able to do something like this.

    And how about MAX? I am pretty sure there’s no GPS, but certainly they’ve got some sort of system to get the general position of a train on the track — is that data available?

  2. Yes, Streetcars and buses both have GPS, although I don’t believe the APIs expose actual locations (don’t want to help those terrorists).

    MAX uses sensors in the tracks, although I understand that this is unreliable and the feed usually presents scheduled times for MAX, but TriMet is upgrading the system.

  3. Aaron said
    Streetcars have GPS — are we able to actually get that information through any of these APIs, or just arrival times? I want to be able to do something like this.

    Aaron was referring to the realtime tracking on the London Underground. On a much smaller scale, here in PDX we have NextBus realtime streetcar tracking, which is available HERE

    Is anyone working on apps to do this with the TriMet system? As for terrorism, London is certainly as concerned as we are (after all, their trains and buses have actually been attacked), yet TfL seems willing to provide that real-time data to app writers.

    I realize that the Streetcar was contracting with NextBus long before TriMet’s homegrown tracking system became available. But it is available now, which leads me to suggest that adding streetcar tracking into the TriMet system would integrate the Streetcar better into the PDX transit fabric.

    And it would fit our “buy local” culture — using a homegrown system instead of contracting to a NextBus, a commercial service in California. Chris, Bob, is there any talk about this idea in Streetcar circles? Would TriMet be amenable?

  4. It’s unclear that there would be much benefit in ripping out the NextBus hardware and replacing it with TriMet’s.

    What we ARE doing is feeding the NextBus data intro TriMet’s system. You can see Streetcar arrival times in TriMet’s transit tracker. The only missing piece is a combined feed of both sets of data to 3rd party developers. Issues are mostly organizational/legal at this point.

  5. I too wish that TriMet would include the Streetcar feed in their data. It makes it pretty awkward now, as developers have to “mash up” different data formats. NextBus requires a different copyright message for their data, and the stop ids are also different. When TriMet opens a new MAX line developers do not have to change their code; when the streetcar opens I will need to create a new version to deal with the different stop IDs, and as Apple takes a week to approve changes, it’ll take at least a week before I have it in place. (I develop a free iPhone app).

  6. Sorry I have been gone from around here, but one of the things that I have been doing is this.

    It shows both bus and MAX locations; bus updates can be slow, though this will improve with the new dispatch system, and while I think the new MAX algorithm is in place, I’ve been told that there are still issues when things happen (I think e.g. trains getting out of sequence; also I don’t think it was showing the extra trains for the Starlight Parade).

    I haven’t done any work on adding streetcars, though Chris did promptly send me documentation when I brought the idea up here.

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