Portland Leads Again

Again, Portland takes the lead with coordination with Google Maps. They’re now offering real time arrival information via the maps service itself!

Impressive, I hope to see this in other cities soon!

UPDATE #1: They’re also slowly starting to restore service.  Of course, the locals bitch on as always (see 1st comment), even though this is an improvement in service.

UPDATE #2: Ok, so a couple of my long time readers got all riled up as if me stating Portland is making some progress is a jab at Seattle. I understand there is an unspoken tit for tat going on between these cities, but I wanted to add that Portland is doing the above, but Seattle also is getting things done:  For instance, SDOT has started a massive repavement effort on Dexter.  Check out these links for this awesome transit + bike improvement effort (which of course auto drivers will benefit form also, and hopefully kill less people in other cars, bikes, or pedestrians).  Cheers!

Seattle is making progress, it just isn’t always in regards to transit buses or light rail.  This blog happens to primarily be about those things.  However maybe I’ll start including more about bikes and pedestrian movement.
Thanks for reading, and you guys stop thinking I’m trying to put Portland on any bigger of a pedestal than it is already on.  o_O
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16 Comments

  1. I know you love putting Portland up on a podium, but this is also in San Diego who runs a better system than Portland, Its available in San Francisco who runs a real transit system with frequency, and Boston.

    Portland doesn’t lead, Google does, and because they worked with TriMet in the past, naturally they went there first for their beta program.

    Reply

  2. Because it is an agency that gets shit done. Plain and simple. Erik and Al, and sometimes you, always loved to dog on the city and Trimet. When in reality, for a city its size, they’re doing better than the vast majority of American cities by a long shot. I like to point out that they’re doing just fine, in spite of all the excessive nonsense Erik H spews & Al M gives em’ crap for. I understand their points, and yours, but fact is it isn’t really like they often lay out. Portland is still a shining example of a city. End of story.

    Reply

  3. I’m sure King County would’ve been added, but real time is only available from Metro-operated routes (so your 511 and 578 would never have info) AND more importantly Metro is in the process of switching over to a new real-time format. No sense in writing something that will interface with a system that will be going away in ~1 year.

    And I have to agree with Chad–Google picked Portland, not Portland is so amazing that it got itself on Google.

    Lastly, recall that King County had tracking before Google existed.

    Reply

    1. Well, just for both of your infoz. I know why Portland was picked, and I know why Google keeps picking Portland as a “guinea pig” so to speak. It’s because Portland has a very transit oriented culture compared to most cities and also happens to have a strong creative class that is extremely technology savvy and a transit agency that is also technology savvy. Seattle has some of that, but not that last one. So yes, Google picked Trimet, Trimet originally picked Google too. Google works with Portland because it IS so amazing. They have a long relationship as they were the first to start working together on Google Maps. In this topic arguing with me about the technical aspects of this venture is like me arguing about Union Driver rules for bus operations.

      King County has “sort of tracked”. I’ve recently got the low down on their system, which is somewhat operative. They tried to get ahead, and that’s cool, but they only somewhat succeeded. As for the “replace” something in a year that is absolutely incorrect. The aspect they’re changing is as simple as a configuration change. No new code needed. Already OneBusAway (which is helping to also lead the way into the future in more ways than many might even know) can easily take into account this switch. As a matter of fact they’ll be able to handle the change right now. The biggest question is around whether King County Metro actually updates their schedules, and services appropriately as promised and requested by the public. Trimet does it all the time, so I assume dangerously, that King County Metro may be able to update theirs too.

      btw – Next transit beer/get together I’d be happy to lay out why the changes won’t, or should absolutely NOT be a problem when deployed by King County Metro. I deal with this type of thing on a day to day basis and would be happy to share.

      Reply

      1. “The aspect they’re changing is as simple as a configuration change. No new code needed.”
        I don’t know where you’re getting your misinformation, but you’re 100% incorrect. All new coaches are having GPS installed but no AVL (signpost/odometer system) is being installed. All these coaches have to be patched in to the legacy AVL system for them to show up on the current tracking systems. It WILL be a new system, and King County asked developers what the new system should look like. Last I heard they’re working on it, and have some input from some important people, but the system is neither final nor public.

        The ONLY way to get real time data right now is to go through the UW, and that will NOT be the case once the OBS/CCS project is complete.

        “The biggest question is around whether King County Metro actually updates their schedules, and services appropriately as promised and requested by the public. Trimet does it all the time, so I assume dangerously, that King County Metro may be able to update theirs too.”
        I’m sure nothing will ever be as good as TriMet in your eyes, but they DO update their schedules on an irregular basis:
        https://www.changedetection.com/log/gov/kingcounty/metro/gtfs_log.html

  4. Well, I have to say this, and me ranting is rare, but im sorry no other city can be like *your* trophy city. IMO, Seattle has better transit than Portland, hands down. We have schedules at bus stops, we have smart cards, we have service overnight, we have new equipment. Not everything has to be light rail. Portlands “Success” is the light rail, and it shows because the bus system gets neglected, weather you want to accept that or not. Portland is very Bike oriented culture, very rail oriented culture, but it certainly isnt transit oriented. When I moved to Portland 10 years ago, the system was pretty good, I still was shocked at the lack of express service like San Diego where I came from, but It has really, gotten worse. I don’t *bag* them per say, they are doing it to themselves, TriMet does not listen to the public, it does not do what the public wants. Maybe Google picked Portland because it was easier to tap into the data they provide to TransitTracker, but I think its far from “Because Portland has a kick ass transit system”, cause after visiting Spokane, which has its faults too, at least they have new buses, hybrids too and a smartcard fare payment. Every Transit system is different, and in no way should mirror what TriMet is doing, every city is different, has different ridership trend, and needs for things, so please, stop thinking everyone needs to be like TriMet, they really are *not* a trophy system, neither is Metro, neither is Translink, neither is Sound Transit. Every system can’t please everyone.

    Reply

    1. If you look back at my entry, I said nothing about Seattle. I was just giving props for Portland getting some things done. I give Seattle props too sometime. I give Vancouver, Canada massive props. I give the United States of the 1850-1950’s massive props. But often I point out what is wrong.

      In this short blog entry I wasn’t the one bagging on Seattle or trying to make comparisons. It was you guys.

      Simply put, and I can see why it’s a point of frustration, Seattle is seen as a progressive city but Portland is often revered and honored for a lot of its efforts. The New York Times pays attention to Portland. The transit community nationally pays more attention to Portland. The Bicycle Leagues pay more attention to Portland. The livability wonks pay more attention to Portland. You can bag on it, and make ad hominem comments about me holding up “my” trophy city, but really it is our “trophy” city. Portland has accomplished more towards improving livability, as a city, as a Government, as a population, and a market & an economy, than almost any city in the entire United States. I didn’t make it do that, I didn’t create that, and I’m not the one writing the newspaper articles or giving it the awards. That’s ALL OF US.

      …and if you want to hold up Seattle as if it is doing something better than Portland, AWESOME! That’s great and I don’t care, but I’m not going to sugar coat it and when either city does something right or wrong in my opinion I’m going to broadcast it. I prefer to broadcast positive news, as I did with this entry. I’d prefer to never write a negative thing again, but things happen and it ends up I’m going to call a city, organization, or whatever entity to task for it.

      Reply

  5. Tim :

    “The aspect they’re changing is as simple as a configuration change. No new code needed.”
    I don’t know where you’re getting your misinformation, but you’re 100% incorrect. All new coaches are having GPS installed but no AVL (signpost/odometer system) is being installed. All these coaches have to be patched in to the legacy AVL system for them to show up on the current tracking systems. It WILL be a new system, and King County asked developers what the new system should look like. Last I heard they’re working on it, and have some input from some important people, but the system is neither final nor public.

    The ONLY way to get real time data right now is to go through the UW, and that will NOT be the case once the OBS/CCS project is complete.

    “The biggest question is around whether King County Metro actually updates their schedules, and services appropriately as promised and requested by the public. Trimet does it all the time, so I assume dangerously, that King County Metro may be able to update theirs too.”
    I’m sure nothing will ever be as good as TriMet in your eyes, but they DO update their schedules on an irregular basis:
    https://www.changedetection.com/log/gov/kingcounty/metro/gtfs_log.html

    Tim – Right now if someone has followed good patterns and practices, they won’t need to change their software much at all. As I pointed out it would be primarily configuration changes. I’ve looked at what they’re planning and it has pretty much ended up what the general community wants. This happens to be very similar if not outright to what others have already blazed the path doing. I’m stoked King County Metro is getting on board – slowly and steadily – but the fact is right now they’re behind by a large margin.
    As for the software again, it should NOT need changed much. However I do understand the hardware needs to change on many if not all or most of the buses. Hardware is NOT software. Having a hardware change, if the software is developed well, does not dictate a software change also. The operational aspects and monitoring of the buses from a business case also has NOT changed, and that is what the software models.
    I understand what you are saying. I understand at a high enough level what King County is trying to do. I also understand rather intimately how the OneBusAway, tracking software in general, and how the GPS and APIs for software work. I use them EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’m not saying these things because I’m pulling the thoughts out of thin air.
    As I said in a previous comment, I’ll be happy to lay these things out and explain to anyone why I’m stating the software shouldn’t need to change much, if any, and the abstractions that each layer utilizes to minimize the hardware changes that are being put into place.
    -Cheers.

    Reply

  6. Tim :

    If the software isn’t changing, you can kiss SIRI goodbye.

    Dude. That’s config crap: http://code.google.com/p/onebusaway/wiki/SiriApi That’s excatly what I’m talking about. If King County Metro follows standards with data presentation via REST and doesn’t use some disturbingly proprietary format then it is zero problem to change the config for the UIs that exist NOW. If King County Metro does this or changes things in other ways that is fine. Change your adapters, or simply your configs and your app is golden. Don’t worry it isn’t the big worry you’re making it out to be.

    But I digress, I get it. King County Metro is working to catch up and get bleeding edge just like those other agencies that are getting their real time info made available via Google Maps/Transit.

    Now if we could modernize Microsoft too we’d have TWO online mapping providers that have real time arrival information. 🙂

    Reply

    1. But they DON’T HAVE REST RIGHT NOW. They HAVE TO write some code to do that. All we have now is SDD. REST != Streaming SQL.

      Reply

  7. Tim :

    But they DON’T HAVE REST RIGHT NOW. They HAVE TO write some code to do that. All we have now is SDD. REST != Streaming SQL.

    I realize that. To use REST (or whatever really, it doesn’t matter) in an appropriately designed architecture (i.e. most modern applications) all one needs to do is utilize REST feeds or whatever instead of the current feeds. As for streaming SQL – I’ve no idea what you mean by that.

    Just build an abstraction layer and call it “TheCheesyLayerToDealWithMetrosServicesBase” and use a simple adapter pattern or something to assure you have a MINIMAL amount of changes to make for an app.

    As you yourself pointed out:

    Tim :I don’t know where you’re getting your misinformation, but you’re 100% incorrect. All new coaches are having GPS installed but no AVL (signpost/odometer system) is being installed. All these coaches have to be patched in to the legacy AVL system for them to show up on the current tracking systems. It WILL be a new system, and King County asked developers what the new system should look like. Last I heard they’re working on it, and have some input from some important people, but the system is neither final nor public.”

    If or when they get that done doesn’t matter as long as they continue to provide some type of service (web service with SOAP, REST, GPS coordinates with whatever…) one shouldn’t have to change their UI or middle tier code. Metro will have to change a ton of stuff because they have an antiquated design to the whole tracking effort.

    However, I went back and re-read your comment. I realized that I didn’t specifically state the context for the subject of my comment that started you ranting. Metro WILL HAVE TO CHANGE A TON of hardware and some software for direct access of that hardware. Entities that use the data, unless Metro totally screws up, shouldn’t have to change barely a thing. I made that statement from the perspective of Google, Microsoft, or whoever may be utilizing the data, including OneBusAway.

    So I’m betting at this point – you and I are making similar arguments, but from different points of perspective (i.e. Metro’s vs. Google’s) and thus the confusion.

    Reply

  8. Metro does not currently offer a web service. So they’ll have to write one once the OBS rollout is complete. I don’t think you get that, so I’ll repeat: There is no web service.

    This is the only way to get real time info from Metro:

    http://www.its.washington.edu/bbone/

    It is not a web service. Repeat: a web service does not exist.

    In order to receive real-time info from Metro, you have to use that Java application that recieves streaming information from the UW and spits out SQL. There are two feeds for Metro: predictions (this is what OBA consumes) and locations. The locations feed has been down for a little over a year.

    So yes, things will be changing. There WILL be new code to write.

    Reply

    1. I’m not trying to be a dick, but you’re not reading for comprehension here. Unless you’re just trying to point out the shitty existing design of King County Metro’s architecture for real time updates. So let me try this form of response.

      Tim :

      Metro does not currently offer a web service. So they’ll have to write one once the OBS rollout is complete. I don’t think you get that, so I’ll repeat: There is no web service.

      Metro will have to write code as I’ve stated in trying to clarify to you.

      Adron :

      Tim :

      But they DON’T HAVE REST RIGHT NOW. They HAVE TO write some code to do that. All we have now is SDD. REST != Streaming SQL.

      I realize that. To use REST (or whatever really, it doesn’t matter) in an appropriately designed architecture (i.e. most modern applications) all one needs to do is utilize REST feeds or whatever instead of the current feeds.

      You then stated this…

      Tim :

      Metro does not currently offer a web service.

      …and this…

      Tim :

      This is the only way to get real time info from Metro:

      http://www.its.washington.edu/bbone/

      It is not a web service. Repeat: a web service does not exist.

      In order to receive real-time info from Metro, you have to use that Java application that recieves streaming information from the UW and spits out SQL. There are two feeds for Metro: predictions (this is what OBA consumes) and locations. The locations feed has been down for a little over a year.

      So yes, things will be changing. There WILL be new code to write.

      Actually it is a “web service”. Re: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_service

      Which is what I stated here…

      Adron :

      If or when they get that done doesn’t matter as long as they continue to provide some type of service (web service with SOAP, REST, GPS coordinates with whatever…) one shouldn’t have to change their UI or middle tier code. Metro will have to change a ton of stuff because they have an antiquated design to the whole tracking effort.

      So I get that you’re saying or suggesting:

      1. King County Metro has a particular type of service that provides the data now that OneBusAway currently uses.
      2. OneBusAway currently provides its services utilizing the http://www.its.washington.edu/bbone/ service, or web service.
      3. You believe everyone will have to change their code – for some reason suggesting that even UIs will have to change and other middle tier architectures.
      4. You AND I believe and know there are back end code changes needed for what King County Metro provides.
      5. According to what I originally wrote we both realize that King County Metro does NOT have real time data available for Google yet. (this I assume and hope is obvious)

      So is that correct? Have I missed some other meaning in what you are trying to state here? Have I explained to you what I’m stating with clarity? Do you still think that UI changes will be needed at OneBusAway or some other type of massive change will be needed at Google? What about the apps available on iPhone, Win7, or Android Devices?

      Anyway… THE ENTIRE POINT OF THIS BLOG POST HAD ZERO TO DO WITH THIS. It was instead about the facts that Portland is increasing service again and also that the transit system now has real time data available via Google Maps.

      That’s all.

      Reply

      1. 1. Yep
        2. Correct
        3. Everyone that uses the UW to get there data will need to change their code. If they get it through OBA, no change will be necessary. I think this is what you meant all along.
        4. Yes
        5. Obvious depending on what you mean by “available”. The data is “available” for anyone to get. There’s no reason that Google couldn’t grab real time from what the UW is offering right now, except that they’d likely have to change it in 10-20 months.

        No, no UI changes will be necessary. But backend code is code, and with you saying that “no code will need to be rewritten” isn’t true as you’ve admitted.

        There are other Metro tracking applications that have nothing to do with OBA (There’s one for the i platform that’s a buck or something). They will need to update their code or throw in the towel and contribute to OBA.

  9. Tim :

    3. Everyone that uses the UW to get there data will need to change their code. If they get it through OBA, no change will be necessary. I think this is what you meant all along.
    5. Obvious depending on what you mean by “available”. The data is “available” for anyone to get. There’s no reason that Google couldn’t grab real time from what the UW is offering right now, except that they’d likely have to change it in 10-20 months.

    3. Exactly.
    5. Right. Except Google wants agencies to decide on a standard. One of the reasons they were working with Trimet originally was to work up some of these standards way back in the day. So yup, Google isn’t gonna touch it until they get on board with what the others are doing.

    Tim :

    No, no UI changes will be necessary. But backend code is code, and with you saying that “no code will need to be rewritten” isn’t true as you’ve admitted.

    Adapter pattern & simple architecture could keep any actual code changes needed to a very small minimum. Everybody knows what Metro has been using has been on shaky ground. Every source I find reiterates that a couple times usually. 😉 So hopefully people have put in that little effort to do so.

    Tim :

    There are other Metro tracking applications that have nothing to do with OBA (There’s one for the i platform that’s a buck or something). They will need to update their code or throw in the towel and contribute to OBA.

    That seems extra suicidal (as far as the app is considered). OBA is about the closest thing that Metro + the other local agencies have to a standard. There shouldn’t be that many that are rogue, especially when so much here has been in limbo for so long.

    Anyway, yep, sounds like we have some clarity to all this conversational rambling. :/ Whew. Probably should have just had a coffee and discussed, probably would have taken 20 seconds. But I digress, maybe it’ll clarify for someone else too. 😉

    Reply

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