Where the government doesn’t have something Detroiters want, they tend to make it themselves. The excellent Detroitography site has created a map that shows the positions of Detroit buses that are currently in service. The map is fun to look at, and gives you an idea if the bus you are trying to catch is on time or running late, and by how much.
“It’s an interesting picture of the overall status of the system: you can see the city in motion,” says Matt H in his post on the Detroitography website.
The data from the map comes from the TextMyBus API. With TextMyBus you can send a text message with your location to 50464 to get real-time bus arrival info. To date over 42,000 people have sent and received more than 2.5 million messages.
The data from TextMyBus is free and open source, so anybody can use it to syndicate information about the bus system. While you can zoom in on the map to see where the bus near you might be, Detroitography also recommends checking out an app like Transit or Stop313 for that.
Bus tracking is a great example of how technology can improve the lives of Detroiters. For people who rely on the bus system and need to get around on a daily basis, these simple digital tools make it easier working with a system that is known for being inefficient and strapped for resources.
They note that the map does have a slight lag because buses only update their location every minute or so, and it takes time to process the data. The buses GPS system has to be working in order for the bus to show up on the map, and if a bus is out of service, the map does not indicate that that. But it’s interesting to watch, could be useful and another example of Detroit’s do-it-yourself ingenuity.