The latest installment in Christopher Groskopf's attempt to open up the data of the small town in Texas to which he's moving. Read about the genesis of the project here.
Why bus schedules? In my first post I named them at the top of my list of datasets I would like to build on. I also mentioned that I intended to avoid buying a car once I moved, a statement that provoked significant eye-rolling. I've been told that no one rides the bus in Tyler or that only poor people do. A fellow hacker who grew up Tyler told me he didn't even know they had a bus system. This isn't really a surprise--Tyler has low population-density (1,982 people per square mile, according to Wolfram Alpha) and a food desert in its urban core. I was stunned to discover that a transit system even existed. So why do I think its a good idea to digitize the bus schedule? Five reasons:
- I need it. Its not just that I don't want to drive. It's that I suck at driving. Having access to public transit is an immediately useful thing for me.
- Tyler has several colleges, but none of them even mention the bus system on their websites. If building this app means one student takes the bus instead of driving then it will be a success.
- It's easy. (Mostly, more on this below.)
- It's an excellent pilot project. The data is available (albeit in a terrible format) and the shape of the application I will build is relatively straightforward.
- Financial freedom, green living, world peace, etc.
The first thing I needed in order to build this app was to get data for routes, schedules and stop locations. The Tyler Transit agency publishes a route map as PDF, though it only includes a very small number of stops. They publish schedule data for weekdays and Saturdays as PDFs. These PDFs only include estimated arrival times for five stops per route, less than ten percent of the total number of stops. Stop location data isn't available anywhere online, so I emailed Tyler Transit and asked for a complete list. I requested an Excel document; they sent me a PDF of a scan of a printout of a web application.