Stop 313

This story has been updated.

DETROIT — Real-time, app-based bus tracking — long a staple for commuters in cities around the world — has finally arrived in Detroit.

Stop313, has released Android and Twitter applications, in addition to its previously released iPhone application, developed by Evol Mark Johnson, which display Detroit Department of Transportation routes, stops, and actual wait times, overlaid on a Google map of the city. Those who follow Stop313 on Twitter can tweet @stop_313 [route number] near [cross streets], (example: @stop_313 07 near mack and cadillac) for an update on arrival times.

The applications were released last week without fanfare or a formal announcement. As of this writing,

"This is the app we've been waiting for for a very long time," downtown resident Joseph C. Krause told Mode Shift. "[Stop313] makes it possible to ride the bus, in Detroit, conveniently, starting now."

Krause took the transit plunge six months ago when he sold his car and moved from Corktown to a spot on Washington Boulevard. Living across the street from the Rosa Parks Transit Center, he bought a DDOT/SMART pass and committed himself to relying on buses to get around. However, he found DDOT's paper maps confusing — they didn't show exact routes or stop locations, and the timetables were useless when navigating a system that ran notoriously behind schedule.

Johnson, who has a day job as an app developer and systems architect, devised Stop313 in his spare time over a period of about two months. His work picks up where TextMyBus, left off.

Although this is only his first day using the app, Krause acknowledges it's already changed his habits. "Even though the buses now run less than once an hour," he said, "because of [Stop313] I am willing to go up to Hamtramck to go to Cafe 1923."

"Literally, just yesterday [before Stop313] I would not have been able to do this," Krause added.

Johnson, who has a day job as an app developer and systems architect, devised Stop313 in his spare time over a period of about two months. His work picks up where TextMyBus, left off.

"Stop313 wouldn't have been possible except for the great work of Code for America," Johnson said. "They were able to work with [DDOT] to make this information available for third-party developers like me."

Johnson describes his work and Code for America's as victories for the open data movement. "TextMyBus and Stop313 are good examples of how putting data in the hands of citizens can help solve actual problems," Johnson said. "Since TextMyBus was implemented, the number of calls to the [DDOT] help line has decreased, and I expect that trend to continue with Stop313."

In the future, as municipal governments continue to open up sources of data to the public, "a lot could be done in terms of [solving problems such as] potholes, crime, blight," Johnson says.

Developers of the TextMyBus app have since started working on a new, more extensive and nationwide data collection project called Local Data.

Krause points out that Stop313 is "still just Version 1.0" and hopes to see the platform improved upon in the future. He would like to see "moving dots" to represent actual bus locations, as well as the capability to zoom out and view an entire system map. Still, "considering it was developed by one guy working in his spare time, it's pretty amazing," Krause said.

Johnson plans to expand the app beyond the iPhone. He's working on an Android version, which would reach a greater number of transit riders. He would also like to see a web version, and hopes that it would be "tackled by web developers out there".

For a truly comprehensive experience, the app's reach would need to expand beyond DDOT to include the entirety of Detroit's balkanized transportation system. "SMART is a next logical step," Johnson adds, referring to the suburban bus system that also serves high-volume Detroit routes. "But they don't have [an interface] where I can get the data from."

 

Are you a web developer? Or is someone you know? Grab the data and see what you can come up with!

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