Three projects helping to build better transit tools for the future

Michael Zhang
Aug 30, 2018 · 4 min read

A quick recap of the third Transit Techies NYC Meetup: sudo touch third_rail, held on Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Last Tuesday, I noticed a group of purple lanyard-wearing kids on my subway ride and realized that summer’s coming to a close! I’ve always found it fascinating how the subway cars of New York City can capture the changing demographics of the city, especially as interns phase out and students start and return to school. Though I’m glad I can say goodbye to 90 degree weather soon, I’ll definitely miss the extra daylight hours that come and go with summers.

However, with the sun setting earlier, I got a chance to watch a beautiful view of the sunset last night from Intersection’s 26th floor office in Hudson Yards, while listening to a great lineup of speakers talk about transit. What more can you ask for on a Wednesday night? Here’s a recap of the event!


Transitive.js: A visualization library for producing schematic transit maps

To kick things off, Kate Chanba & David Emory showcased a JavaScript library they have been working on for producing responsive schematic transit maps. The motivation for this project came from the realization that while today’s A-to-B mapping and trip planning services are great for giving directions, they are actually quite poor at giving users a sense of the entire transit system from a holistic perspective. Meanwhile, schematic maps, such as the classic New York City Subway Map, are much better providing such a big picture, so they hoped to integrate schematic designs into current mapping tools.

First, Kate walked us through the history of representing transit information through schematic maps and the various design challenges that come with creating maps that support the visual flexibility demanded by today’s technology. After that, David showed us how Transitive.js can be used on top of existing services, such as TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s metro system which provides a trip planner.

Open Transit Data Toolkit: Educating people on how to work with transit data

Next up was Ray Cha, who shared a project he is working on to help teach people how to access and use transit data. Funded by TransitCenter, the Open Transit Data Toolkit is a website that contains a collection of lessons that walk through the entire process of working with transit data, starting with getting the data to analyzing and visualizing it. Lessons cover topics ranging from mapping different transit systems to analyzing passenger survey data to glean new insights.

As someone who learned data science largely from going through free online tutorials and educational materials, it made me super happy to see something like this at this Meetup. The Open Transit Data Toolkit seems like an incredible resource despite still being a work in progress, and hopefully it will help many people get their start in transit data.

Bike-Share API: A one stop shop for bike sharing information

With bike sharing (and now scooter sharing…) becoming more and more popular, Coord has entered this space to provide an API service that consolidates information from over 50 different bike sharing systems all around the US. Using their API, users can locate available bikes and calculate the feasibility and costs of trips, among many other things.

During the presentation, Noah Greenbaum walked us through the various challenges of calculating and defining service areas, as well as the caveats of relying on third-party APIs to put together such a centralized service. We also got to see some live API calls, which demonstrated interesting ways in which their customers might benefit from using Coord’s service.


As always, a big round of 👏 to Tyler Green and Kozhy Koh for organizing this Meetup! You can learn about (and join) Transit Techies NYC here.

If you want to keep up with whatever I’m working on, please follow me on Twitter, where I’ll always post my latest updates on transit, data, and more!

Feel free to check out Pranav Badami’s recap of the last Transit Techies NYC Meetup if you would like to learn more about what these events are all about!

Thanks to Pranav Badami

Michael Zhang

Written by

Data, music (IG: cornerclubofficial), and more.

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