TriMet kicks off open data series, discusses future of transit apps



TriMet Chief Technology Officer Tim McHugh addressing developers.

What will the next generation of transit apps bring to TriMet riders? TriMet staff met Wednesday with independent developers to discuss the future potential to transform the customer experience for our transit riders.

More than 65 developers and technology professionals along with transit leaders from across the nation gathered in-person and virtually with TriMet staff to brainstorm the next innovations in transit applications. Developers will have access to the highly-anticipated data from TriMet’s new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) system. See sidebar.

TriMet has used a CAD/AVL system to manage bus operations since the mid 1990s however the agency recently updated the system, providing improved bus tracking and performance monitoring capabilities.The new system also supports intelligent transportation systems (ITS) such as TriMet’s TransitTracker and automatic stop announcements in buses and trains, as well as to analyze transit operations such as on time performance and passenger loads.

The event featured discussion between TriMet’s IT staff and developers on what data is needed to improve existing customer applications and what new applications are possible. Additionally, TriMet’s Mulitcultural Manager Martín González led a segment on developing applications for riders who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

This was the first in a series of three events planned through a partnership between the Technology Association of Oregon, Isite Design, INIT and Tait Communications and TriMet.

World leader – first transit agency to release data to the public
In early 2005, TriMet took an innovative approach to developer engagement by becoming the first transit agency in the world to release data to the public, setting the trend for transit agencies everywhere. In December of 2005 the first two TriMet third-party apps, Transit Surfer by Chris Smith of the Portland Transport blog and Google Transit, were released.

In early 2007, TriMet set up an official Web page with resources for third-party developers. By early 2009, TriMet listed 25 applications on the TriMet app page that were using the agency’s developer resources.
TriMet currently has the second highest apps total for transit agencies in the United States, following New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

TriMet App Center
With just a few clicks, riders can access transit apps to plan trips, get real-time vehicle locations and check arrival times. Platforms include Android, Windows Phones, web and mobile web, iPhone, iPod and iPad products. Thus far, 58 apps have been created specifically for TriMet, all at no cost to the agency. Independent software developers have created these free and commercial applications which are available via the TriMet website.