Metro listened to the riders. Yesterday at the DC Council oversight hearing for WMATA, General Manager John Catoe announced that Metro will release schedule and routing information in the open Google Transit Feed Specification format. They will post the information online for all to access March 23, according to Catoe:
Graham: Now you’ve got this "Google Transit" issue. And you know I’m going to mention this, because we had testimony [from Michael Perkins] earlier about this. And people have strong feelings about this question. Where are we on giving access to our bus, rail and other information to Google?
Catoe: You know, there’s an old statement from football, there’s a time to pass the ball, or a time to run the ball, or a time to punt the ball. From this perspective, we’ve listened, and as a result, Metro is planning on making its bus schedule data available on our website in the [Google Transit Feed Specification] format no later than the 23rd of this month. So we’re working as we speak to make that information available.
Catoe said "bus schedule data" but he probably meant "bus and rail." I’m going to call to confirm.
This is even better than just doing a deal with Google, because anyone will be able to use the data. Actually, Catoe didn’t give any updates on a specific deal with Google. Other agencies have signed specific deals. Metro might still do that, but it looks likely they might not at all.
How great is that? Metro figured out a compromise position based on feedback from you, the riders. Perhaps they didn’t feel that partnering with Google on Google’s terms would work for them, so they decided instead to just give the data away and let anyone use it.
For other transit systems, it’s been typical for the agency and Google to sign an agreement together. Some provisions of Google’s agreement had been a sticking point for Metro in the past. Metro might still be working on a special Google deal. Or, maybe they aren’t.
If not, this shouldn’t pose a problem if the goal is for Google to index and search the data. Google doesn’t get an agreement from every website out there it indexes into its search engine, so why should they require an agreement to index Metro’s schedule information? The data will be out there, just waiting to be used by application developers. That’s Google, but also anyone else who comes along. Now let’s hope (and advocate) for other transit services like Ride On, The Bus, Arlington Transit "ART", Fairfax Connector, DASH and more to follow Metro’s lead and release their schedules, too.
Crossposted on Greater Greater Washington