TriMet Should Partner with Portlanders More

We live in a creative-mecca filled with amazingly talented thinkers, designers, and developers yet they seem to keep us at arm’s length.

This morning I received a team email from our Performance Manager about a recently launched site that tracks TriMet in almost near real-time. I open it up and was immediately faced with the same visuals TriMet uses for their horrible-terrible-no-good map. I was disappointed.

Then magic happens.

Almost immediately a number appears on the screen. Then four, ten, and so on. Bus numbers. And they’re moving! It is beautiful.

As an avid public transportation rider for years, I have a serious love/hate relationship with TriMet. I love the actual service. I have frustrations with their execution—their advertising, marketing, services, communications (I can go on), et cetera.

I want them to be amazing.

I want to root uncontrollably for them at every stop and every conversation. Yet, in the end, I am left with late or early busses, heavy unfriendly maps, stale design, and the smell of either urine or body odor.

I use PDX BUS, on my iphone. I have favorite stops saved, it is on the first screen on my iPhone, and (for the most part) it is the best app out there for tracking TriMet arrival times. Unfortunately, though, it is only as reliable as the information it is given. It was built by Teleportaloo in September 2008 using roughly the same technology as today, by a developer not affiliated with TriMet. It is on the sixth iteration. Oh, and PDX Bus is open source, the code is available onGitHub.

Our developer, Matt Grantski, uses PDX Transit Finder for Android and loves it. It was a labor of love by Ryan Roemmich who sadly moved away and no longer supports his app.
PDX Live Bus

Jason Brown is a developer and Portlander. He rides TriMet and was feeling the same pain points we all face—the transit tracker is not amazingly accurate. Jason, however, has the power to do something about it. He’s a developer at LogicBox* and in his spare time he created PDX Live Bus. I will reiterate that last point—in his spare time.

First, go check out the map.

It updates every 6-20 seconds to give you a very close to real-time picture of where your bus actually is. Oh, and his code is open source and also on GitHub.

And now, back to my point.

The app and the new live map are clearly labors of love, yet TriMet doesn’t make it easy for the community (Brown to the Oregonian: ‘The GPS data set “is hidden very well” in the code, Brown said. “They’re not really being as transparent as they say. Definitely not.”’) and the map on their site is barely usable.
TriMet should partner with the creative community for the marketing, tracking, on-board collateral, et cetera all for the promise of free-advertising by the creatives involved. I am not advocating Spec Work. I am talking Pro-bono, at cost, in exchange for advertising creative work, strategy, and possibly even development.

TriMet is a huge part of our community but they seem to keep the greater-Portland area, and especially our talent, at arms length.
People already do this on their own. In their free time. Embrace our community and ask. I bet the response would be more than successful.

*Amazing coincidence, LogicBox is moving in the same building as eROI on May 15, next week!

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