Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New York City Bus Tracking: Procuring for an Open Architecture

by Karl Fogel

Real-time bus tracking is one of civic technology’s easier calls. No one likes guessing when next bus will come: “Do I need to run for it?”, “Do I have time to duck into that corner store and get a newspaper?”, etc. So people immediately grasp the benefit of being able to ask their smartphone where the next bus is.
Wait — I know what you’re thinking: “Not everyone has a smartphone. Don’t be such a techno-élitist!” And you’d be absolutely right.
That’s why the way in which New York City is setting up their bus-tracking system is important:
The big win in civic technology is to build systems that become platforms upon which anyone can build new services, whether volunteer, commercial, or cross-governmental. And that’s exactly how New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is doing it. Starting with their pilot of real-time bus-tracking along the B63 route in Brooklyn, and now expanding to Staten Island in the next phase, and then ultimately to the entire city, they are building an architecture that explicitly supports the development of new and varied applications beyond what MTA produces itself. More on that in a minute.

Procuring for an open architecture

What’s particularly interesting about this project is how it was structured as an open platform from the very beginning — starting with the procurement of the various components. The MTA separated the project into a software side and a hardware side. That might sound obvious, but it’s actually not how a lot of civic procurement happens. More typically, a city requests to buy a whole solution in one piece, and each interested vendor submits a bid encompassing every aspect of the project: the server software, the on-bus hardware that reports the bus’s position, the mobile phone applications and web applications to query the server, public display units… everything, the whole enchilada.

more about NYC:

Manhattan’s Master Plan: Why NYC Looks the Way it Does

NYC Taxi Reform Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The Case for Bike-Share

The Next New York: How the Planning Department Sabotages Sustainability

Minimum Knowledge about Minimum Parking Requirements

NYC DOT Seeks Developer Feedback


No comments:

Post a Comment