Tell SXSW: What’s on your Muni Wishlist?

Photo by Agent Akit

We don’t have to tell you that our public transit system is far from perfect. So what do you do to make up for what our bus system lacks?

This year we’re honored to be on a panel at South by Southwest to talk about data solutions for public transportation. We’ve seen the many ways that Muni riders use social media to communicate about what’s happening on the bus in real time when the official information isn’t fast enough. So tell us how you think Muni and other transit systems can use technology to improve our commute:

What’s on your Muni wishlist?

More bus shelters with NextBus data? Better arrival prediction? Yet another Muni mobile app? Throw your wish in the hat!

And if you’re going to be at South by Southwest, please come to our panel:

Sexy* Data Solutions for Public Transit
Monday, March 12
11:00AM -12:00PM
AT&T Conference Hotel
Salon D

*according to SXSW


  • Better use of their Twitter page. I noticed their Central Subway page does a pretty good job of timely updates. Rose must maintain that page.

    Of course, they could also integrate one of the apps for real-time bus info (I’m looking at you Routesy) and tweak it to advise of any known delays for a particular day.

    • eugenia

      Or more timely (more real time) alerts of delays via Twitter – we seem to always hear about it first from passengers on the scene.

  • Stuart

    I use the NextBus information on my iPhone, but currently it’s not integrated with Google Maps. So I have to check Google maps to get directions and see which line(s) is best to take and then flip over to the NextBus mobile website (which isn’t quick to load or navigate).

    The other issue with NextBus is that it doesn’t tell you when the bus is going to the Garage. This happens a lot with the 22. I always get messed up by this – Running to a bus, only to get there and it’s not picking up passengers even though it’s listed on NextBus.

    • eugenia

      On the google maps android app I can get bus prediction information, which i assume is from the same open data as nextbus…is this different on the iphone?

      Your second issue is totally valid. I have waited for the 47 by my house only to see it jet off without me to the garage.

      • Alex

        Ahh there are a couple of things there.

        What you see in Google Maps for Muni is just the normal GTFS feed. The timetables that the MTA used to publish, but doesn’t anymore? I’m 99% sure that’s what Google is showing. Google made some noise about integrating BART real-time info, but from the looks of it on the map app, they’re still just showing timetables.

        Google’s real-time data (not sure where these are used, maybe on the desktop maps site?) use yet another info feed. I suspect Google uses “GTFS-Real Time”, which, from the looks of it, reinvented about three different wheels.

        Google doesn’t list which agencies publish real-time information, and the format doesn’t allow for posting predictions (only deviations from published schedules — I can’t imagine how this would break down when applied to the SFMTA). Aside from the June 2011 announcement, I haven’t seen much from Google about real-time info… so I think those real-time updates are, in San Francisco, limited to BART only?

        In the same way that the Balkanization of the transit agencies in the Bay Area makes it extremely difficult to do something like go from SFSU to 99 Ranch in Daly City, the Balkanization of the data makes it difficult to develop apps.

  • Alex

    I want saner heads to prevail. If developers are riders and riders are to be referred to as customers, it stands to reason that they’re out to serve *us*. Transit agencies ought to get their collective heads out of their own asses and start acting a LOT more friendly to developers.

    There is so much data available it’s ridiculous. Unfortunately, most transit agencies are extremely protective of said data. For instance the New York MTA will sue you for copyright infringement if you use similarly styled signage. DC’s WMATA is so protective of their NextBus sourced data that they do not allow NextBus to distribute it. If you write a NextBus app, you can easily access any of the transit agencies that they serve *except* for the WMATA. For that you’ll have to adjust your app to talk directly to the WMATA servers. NextBus collects loads of useful information that various agencies refuse to release (like arrival times for end-of-the-line stops, short runs, shuttle service, on-time performance, and current headways).

    What data is available is not well standardized. Caltrain publishes GTFS info (which is a /pain/ to parse), but they don’t make it obvious. BART has their own proprietary format (that’s in some state of flux). AC Transit and Muni use NextBus. But, because of the software they use to provide it to NextBus, trivial changes wreak havoc with mobile apps. And, in the case of the MTA, they make changes all the time because there are typos everywhere. I run about 100 search and replaces for each destination because the data the SFMTA gives out is so bad.

    And then there’s Golden Gate Transit. While they definitely don’t do scheduling by hand, they have yet to export anything useful for developers. Come on guys!

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