This Hack Just Improved the Lives of Baltimore Bus Riders by 1000%

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The Baltimore City bus system is notoriously unreliable. 

That’s one reason why public transit riders across the city were thrilled when the MTA began providing e-notifications of real-time bus locations earlier this month. But while that information is useful, it’s not exactly simple to use… or aesthetically pleasing.

So thank heavens some local developers took it upon themselves to do the work to get Baltimore included on Transit App, one of the most popular apps with public transit riders from San Francisco to New York City.

In an entertaining post on Medium, the masterminds behind Transit App detail the really frustrating bureaucracy that almost prevented the Baltimore version of the app from existing in the first place. There’s a whole saga there, but here’s a rundown of the highlights:

-The city didn’t have enough money to put fancy new GPS trackers in its current fleet of buses. The best it could offer was a slightly updated version of the  25-year-old system that provides real-time information about bus locations.

-Instead of creating its own app, the city decided to put the bus location data on its website… in a format that wasn’t compatible with Google Maps or any of the other developer-friendly location tracking programs. So: here’s the info, good luck finding a way to use it, basically.

-The city claimed that getting its old-fashioned data into an app-friendly format would probably cost $600,000. Which it didn’t have.

Despite all those obstacles, a group of intrepid developers decided they would just go ahead and find a way to make the app work anyway. And get this: They did!

And—with just an afternoon of work—Baltimore finally has the real-time tracking app it deserves. $600,000 under budget 😉

Even better, it’s free. Download Transit App here.

 



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