Techies: There are better ways to figure out how to catch your Metro train - Mobility Lab

Many of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s fundamental problems – like funding and infrastructure – appear to be sticking around.

But the agency’s open-data policy provides a lot of space for the public to at least better manage the passenger experience and plan for an improved system down the road.

Transit enthusiasts at the Transportation Techies’ seventh Metro Hack Night presented – in a show-and-tell format Wednesday night at Metro headquarters – how the public is able to leverage the Washington D.C. system’s open data.

Big-picture toolbox

WMATA’s data provides a digital toolbox that both passengers and planners can use to smooth out movement through the system and understand where it is the most tied up.

Tyler Green, of Intersection, dug into how we can understand a subway system in terms of the connections every station provides. Green presented the Metrorail system as a graph – not as a relation between variables and quantities, but a set of nodes and the connections they make with each other. This is the basis for routing software, but it can also serve planners by visualizing how an existing or proposed network could serve its customers, such as by highlighting important nodes, potential bottlenecks, and how connections change with the addition or subtraction of transfer points and routes.

There was also a more theoretical and aspirational version of Green’s tool in Shannon Turner’s Metro Map Maker. Using a grid of squares, users can start with the current Metrorail map and add or subtract to it as they like, displaying in a public format on the web their individual idea of what a perfect Metro – or plenty of other transit systems throughout the world – could look like if money were no obstacle.

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