Human Transit email of the week: Should ridership data be online?

Quick apology: I’m very late posting on this because Trillium has had many projects going on.  Look for more regular blog posts over the summer, however.  [End excuses.]

A post from February 2010 on Human Transit by Jarrett Walker, one of the smartest blogs on public transportation out there, asks if, and how, public transportation ridership data should be presented online.

A contact at TriMet asks Jarrett,

There is an internal TriMet web site, accessible to all TriMet employees, including drivers and mechanics, that has a wealth of information, such as budgets, ridership, etc. While all of this could potentially be misinterpreted, it seems to me that it should all be available to the public in a section of the public web site. I shouldn’t have to feel sneaky when I provide you with extracts from this material.

Here, here.  Open schedule and arrival information benefits customers because it enables the development of new applications to navigate and use the system.  Opening ridership information would offer its own benefits:

  • Better informed public participation in the transit planning process (Jarrett also points out one of the potential hurdles here — where a public insists on network designs that prioritize productivity strongly over transportation equity and meeting needs)
  • Helping taxpayers assess and understand the value they are receiving from their transit investment
  • Providing the raw data to fuel software innovation in the same way that open schedule and arrival data has enabled applications like Google Transit, PDXBus, iBART, WalkScore, and so many more.  Here’s an example of a visualization of transit systems by size.  If more data was available, it might be possible to zoom into these agencies to see a breakdown by routes, modes, etc.

For more discussion, see Jarrett’s post “Email of the week: Should ridership data be online?”