James here, just getting started with what’s sure to be a terrific summer interning with OpenPlans in New York City. I’m a grad student at Georgia Tech, pursuing masters’ degrees in civil engineering and city planning with a central focus on transportation. This summer I’m going to identify and help design transit data driven tools for travelers, operators, advocates and policy wonks. But I can’t do this on my own – I’ll be posting periodically throughout the summer looking for feedback and input from the planning community.
Please share your thoughts on the direction, methods and data that I write about. Hopefully one of these will turn into a thesis idea, but in the meantime, let’s get started! Here’s the first project I’ve scoped out with the folks here at OpenPlans:
Tech for Transit Planning
Transit isn’t a single bus or route; it’s a system. A complex, multi-faceted system with hundreds or thousands of moving parts. Is the scheduled system itself doing what we want it to? How do you measure how well the system is serving a region? Can you compare a system in New York to one in California? Are planned changes to service equitable for all groups of people? With the proliferation of open data, we are suddenly able to answer myriad of questions whose answers were previously locked in antiquated printed schedules.
Lucky for me, the framework for many tools that I can envision is already in place using something called the OTP Analyst. This project is the beginning of an ongoing effort to repurpose the Open Trip Planner project in a way that can benefit the planning community, not just the riders.
Here’s the plan:
- Talk to people in transit planning: interview stakeholders who might have an interest in transit planning. So far this includes transit agency planning staff, metropolitan planning organization (MPO) staff, advocacy groups and consultants. We’ve set meetings up with folks from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC. Do you want to chat?
- Find out what they do: an interview gets us started, but I’ll spend some time job shadowing with folks to see what they do on a day-to-day basis. When I visit with transit planners, for example, I’ll be sitting in with the schedulers, the people who work on service changes, and the project managers that work on new routes to see how they’re analyzing their planned routes and changes. What data do they use and how do they crunch the numbers? As a grad student and frequent TRB attendee, I am specifically interested in learning to what extent the calculations and data-intensive methodologies in the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual are being used in practice.
- Think about how we can help: We can use GTFS to carry out lots of analysis on its own. Combine that with Open Trip Planner and it becomes a powerful tool to be used for understanding how transit serves a region. Add in some census data, connect with Yelp or 4sq – there’s a lot of directions this can go. We’re building the OTP Analyst which will be shaped by our community’s needs and designed to help make transit better.
- Make it happen: Things move fast here at OpenPlans and I’ve got to get back to grad school in August. Before I leave, I’d like to have some set of tools up and running with the help of all the top-notch developers who surround me.
What do you think?