And if open data applications sounds like something you’re interested in working on, check out the open data development session next week:
When: Wednesday April 22nd from 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Where: Innovation Factory @ 175 Longwood Road South
What: Open Hamilton development session – a time for people to work on their Open Data projects together, and find projects to work on. (Contact: Anand Sinha, E-mail: anand underscore sinha at yahoo dot com).
Iâ€™m a freelance software developer & marketer, and a very proud lifelong Hamiltonian.
What is hsrmap.ca?
hsrmap.ca is a mobile web app which displays the location and routes of all HSR buses in near real-time.
Why did you create hsrmap.ca?
The short answer is that I was frustrated with the HSR’s “Bus Web” mobile experience. I tend to catch the bus by walking to the nearest stop and waiting. I wanted the ability to gauge whether there is time to grab a coffee or if I need to stay put because the bus is just around the corner. Essentially I wanted to make the experience of riding the bus slightly easier.
How many people have been using hsrmap.ca?
Since the March 5th launch to today (April 16th) I have had 1623 visits and 2328 page views. Interestingly enough, 55.7% of the traffic comes from visiting hsrmap.ca directly, meaning that many people have either bookmarked it or can easily remember the domain name. I remember asking myself whether I should buy a dedicated domain, but now I’m glad I did it.
How did you get the word out about hsrmap.ca?
I made a single post on Reddit (/r/hamilton) and a single tweet. I really didn’t expect much to come of it, but was delighted to see such a great response. Transit in general seems to be an important issue to Hamiltonians.
What technologies did you use to build hsrmap.ca?
I tried to keep the creation of hsrmap.ca as simple as possible. For my backend I used Linux, Apache, and PHP with the GTFS-realtime Google PHP library. For my frontend I decided to use jQuery Mobile since my target is mobile web browsers.
How long did it take you to get it up and running?
A functioning MVP was built in about 4 hours on the night of February 28th. I spent a few hours on the following days to add routing, vehicle movement animation, vehicle svg icons, update interval, etc. I finally decided to publically announce it on March 5th. I’ve made small improvements since.
What are your future plans for hsrmap.ca?
In the near future I hope to improve the location accuracy of the buses. The current Open Data GTFS feed updates every 45-75 seconds. This means that it isn’t truly live data. Curiously enough, the HSR’s Bus Web site (powered by Trapeze) seems to have more frequent updates. Either they have access to better data or they are predicting the current bus location based on speed/schedule/last known location. Regardless, I would like to implement a vehicle prediction algorithm of my own so that the buses on the map always appear to be moving.
What are your thoughts on Open Data in Hamilton? How is it important?
Open Data in general is very exciting. It allows developers to easily design, build, and implement applications that benefit Hamilton. The advantage to the city is that they essentially get free (and arguably better) labour out of the deal. Iâ€™d be curious to see how much money they paid Trapeze for Bus Web.
What do you think should happen next, both from the standpoint of the Open Data community and the city’s releasing of Open Data?
I view Open Data as another form of public infrastructure. Good infrastructure requires good planning. It is the city’s responsibility to taxpayers that they invest in creating good Open Data infrastructure for the development community to build on. I believe a little forethought by the city on this issue can enrich our lives and could ultimately save taxpayers money. I would love to see more departments take this issue seriously. For example, Tourism Hamilton currently provides no access to their event information in a developer friendly manner. I believe if Tourism Hamilton provided better access to events occurring within the community via Open Data, developers could build more engaging applications. Interestingly enough, tourismhamilton.com is built on WordPress, and it would be fairly trivial to provide this functionality.
Any advice for developers thinking about taking on open / community type work like this?
My advice would be to talk with others in the Software Hamilton community and start building. I would also encourage developers to pressure the city to release or improve data as necessary. Ideally, Iâ€™d love to see McMaster or Mohawk encourage the development and creation of student Open Data initiatives. If you are a student there, start asking some questions or forming Open Data communities of your own.