OpenPlans Puts MTA Bus Locations Online

Today, we are excited to launch a new project: real-time bus locations for the B63 line in Brooklyn.  For the past several months, we’ve been working closely with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build the open source and open data infrastructure for this new service.  As open source software developers, as open data advocates, and as MetroCard-carrying members of the NYC tech community, we at OpenPlans are extremely proud to help New Yorkers answer the question: “where’s the bus?”

As of this morning, you can log on to from your computer or smartphone and see B63s moving along their routes. You’ll also be able to retrieve real-time bus information from any phone via SMS — MTA will be installing informational signs with SMS codes along the B63 route in coming weeks.

This project is remarkable for a number of reasons:

Low Cost: when estimates to expand the 34th Street real-time bus data pilot to citywide scale came in at over $140mm, MTA began looking for a low cost solution.  This pilot, built using low-cost hardware and open source software, demonstrates that critical real-time information can be delivered to riders citywide at a fraction of that cost.

Built on Open Source: rather than building from scratch, and rather than buying a commercial package, we began by identifying and improving the most mature and successful open source project in this space.  That project was (and is) OneBusAway, a project developed by Brian Ferris for the Greater Seattle area.  For the MTA Bus Time B63 pilot, OpenPlans extended and adapted OneBusAway to meet MTA’s needs.

An Open Data Platform: the MTA BusTime B63 pilot has an open data program baked in — software developers can simply visit, sign up for an API key, and build apps that make use of B63 real-time locations.  We have worked with MTA for several years to help grow their open data program, and are pleased to see them advance it even further with this initiative.

OpenPlans does a lot of things, so you may not realize that we have a growing business developing and supporting open source software for the transportation industry.  We are proud to add the MTA Bus Time B63 pilot to our list of projects, and are looking forward to working with more customer-oriented agencies to develop open information systems.

We have had a great time working with MTA on this project — they have a really sharp tech team, and we very much agree with their approach to designing and building customer information systems.

I’d also like to thank the incredibly talented and hardworking Transportation Team here at OpenPlans that has worked on this project since the fall: Jeff Maki (our tireless project & product manager), Andy Cochran (our creative director), Chris Patterson (our front-end engineer), David Turner (our transit algorithm specialist), Michael Keating (our business development manager), Evan Carter (our systems administrator) and Brian Ferris from OneBusAway.

A full press release is available here, and you can also see MTA’s announcement here.

See you on the bus!