We have an entry in the Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge, which asks “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”. Ours is OpenScheduleTracker. Please go there to read the details and “applaud”.

OpenScheduleTracker archives public transit schedules and provides an easy-to-use interface for understanding how schedules change over time, comparing different schedule versions, and identifying what areas are most affected by schedule changes.

What’s The Problem?

OpenScheduleTracker addresses three primary weaknesses in the way that transit system changes are currently reported and discussed:
1. Small changes are ignored
Public transit schedules evolve constantly, but we often focus only on big changes — new routes, new stations, line closures — and ignore small changes like schedule adjustments, frequency changes, and transfer synchronization. These small changes are not glamorous, but they can have a big impact on the way that a transit system meets or misses the needs of local communities.
2. Big changes are misunderstood
When a new bus route is added or a new rail station opens, the public discussion tends to focus on effects near the new facility: people want to know what’s happening “in my backyard.” These effects are important, but they are only part of the whole picture. Changes to transit systems have network effects which extend through the entire system: a new station in one neighborhood provides access to local opportunities for all users of the system.
3. Old schedules aren’t available for comparison
Analyzing schedule changes over time is often frustrated by the inconsistent availability of previous transit schedule versions. Transit operators’ policies for archiving historical schedule data varies widely, and even when schedules are archived the public often has access only to the current version. Public transit system schedules are significant investments of time, money, and expertise; when they are lost or inaccessible, the public loses the value of that investment.