Audience Question: What about the bus lines that are closing or the rail lines under construction? Are there files for those?
Answer: Some of them. We put out a new shape file for every shake-up which is twice a year as when the schedules change. We don’t change schedules constantly. We change schedules twice a year because it’s a unionized environment and it’s a big process, and you don’t want to have people bumping other people, other operators bumping operators all year around. They do it all at once, and our changes are twice a year in June and December. So, we give an updated shape file twice a year, and I have older stuff, but what’s out there is what’s current for the current shape file, for the six month period.
Audience Question: Is there a shape file for the Regional Connector downtown?
Answer: I have it, but I was only putting out our existing service on the website. Same with the GTSF because we know people will use us, and we’re very careful about existing lines versus future lines. We don’t want to be sending customers to lines that don’t exist, stops that don’t exist.
Audience Question: Is there an attribute in either GIS or GTFS which lets you identify whether it’s proposed or future or when it will open?
Answer: I can say on both the GTSF and the GIS, they’re pretty good, pretty much in terms of when these schedules are what we say live or what’s the term, when they go live to the public. We get our new information within two weeks, worst case scenario, three weeks. When the GTSF goes up, it has to be out at least a week before the shakeup goes in, in effect, because that’s how long it takes Google to get it up on their site. And we’d like to get it up as soon as we can. So, we have usually a window of about three weeks from the time that the final clean data is available for us. And at that point in time, we try to get it out there within a week. So, at that point in time, there will be two sets of data, it’ll be one huge Google Transit feed. It’ll be the shakeup that we’re in because if you’re planning your trip, you want to know about what’s happening now, and then there’s a dated file and there’s dates for the trips, so it’s like a double shakeup all in there at once. Because otherwise it’ll be, there’s a lot of properties that don’t do this and they end up with like a Saturday or something where there’s nothing or no Google Transit up because they have their old one and then their new one’s going to go in. We don’t do that. So, it’s seamless to the customer. The date comes when the new shakeup starts and Google picks from the things that are dated. They go with that. So anybody using that data could have both at the same time for like a week and a half. So, that would give you advanced time if you needed to do something with it.
Audience Question: Is all of your mapping related to Google or do you do anything with the SRI?
Answer: Our shape files are passed as a template to our scheduling software output. So, in some ways, neither. I use ESRI to produce the two, edit the two shape files. On customer facing, we go back and forth. A lot of our systems here were built from Thomas Brothers. Thomas Brothers has a database that use our data sets. In Atlas, all that stuff was state plane, but we’ve converted everything to lat long. I know our stuff, it both works. Everything passed through the scheduling system is a state plane map. But when it’s exported, we convert it.
Because that’s what people tend to use more, but state plane is what we have because that tends to be more accurate for what we do.
Audience Question: Is GIS data available for parking facilities?
Answer: Yes, I know. I know we have the data set somewhere. It’s actually the property of Caltrans. It’s not ours. We don’t own parking, any parking except for the Metro rail stations.
Audience Question: Could we get the Bikeway and path data in a shape file as well? Because it’s a really big pain in the butt to try and do some analysis in Google Earth and seven ark and switching back and forth. They don’t like each other very well. Particularly, Google likes the shape files, but ESRI does not like the KML files. I keep having to convert them in half to keep from dealing with hacking into the code to make it accessible. Could we do the lines that are in the Bikepath data sets for our GIS, as well?
Answer: Our bike data person just left the agency. We’ll need to address that at a later date.
Audience Question: I do have one. Since not all of the ridership have smart phones, have you thought about maybe kiosk types of devices for some of these apps? Is that reasonable?
Answer: We have an R&D department within Metro and I think long term, yes, we’re interested in that. I think there’s a very limited number of info kiosks right now in certain places, and they could be better. They could use better technology. They could use better hardware.
Audience Question: It’s outside the scope of the development process at this point. But is there at some point going to be some transparency and accessibility to you guys to TAP and some of the other commerce side of what’s going on at Metro?
Answer: I’m actually working on something. Because we, we’re probably the one place where we can actually calculate fares amongst all the different agencies. And so TAP is a natural thing there. But I’ve got to be honest with you, that’s come to a screeching halt. We started working with it. They really have some other issues they have to work out in the TAP program first. And a lot of them are just between agencies and whatever to get everybody on board and arrange everything. But yes, at some point that is a plan. But there’s nothing happening right at the moment. Like I said, agency stuff has to kind of be worked out first. I think technically, there’s at least half the stuff working now. There’s some inter-agency issues with that. The ultimate goal, of course, is to have everybody be able to use the TAP card and ride on everything.
Audience Question: I’m kind of curious more about NFC and how it’s going to play in Metro in the future. And the other part is connectivity inside, specifically in the subway area. Is anything yet down on the platform?
Answer: Just, what was it, last year or a few years ago? There was a board motion to investigate cell coverage for the rail stations. It comes up every once in a while. A lot of the signals are not in our control. Yeah, that’s come up a few times. And also I think at the city level, the CRA/LA they have an RFP up right now for doing WiFi on the Gold Line. And that’s public. You can go look at that information right now.
Audience Question: One question about the contest. What category would SMS applications fall into?
Answer: It would be a mobile app. That’s great. Currently right now we’re very interested in SMS because going back to the numbers where of that 70 percent that have some type of device, half of them are smart phones. The other half are dummy voice phones. And then again remember, that 30 percent that said no, I don’t have any device. We’re still interested in them. We’re still interested the other half with just dummy phones. They’re still our customers. We still want to provide tools for them also.
Audience Question: I have a chicken and the egg problem. You know, to do some of the things that we’re capable of doing, we need basically uptake. So if I demonstrate an application to you guys that leaves other people with that application out, you know, on the lines. I mean, how are you going to take into consideration the full functionality of what we’re talking about?
Answer: You’re going to have to demo the app in some way.
Audience Question: We’ve talked about transit data. We’ve talked about station data. Is there any other data that you have available that either you’re considering making public or data that you have made public but we haven’t discussed?
Answer: I think the agency has a lot of data. And the whole developer project, it’s a volunteer project. Everyone up here, they volunteered. They are the data owners, and they volunteered to release their data and make it public to you. With that said, there are other folks here that own data that are not interested in releasing it.
Audience Question: I did have an oddball question for regarding schedule data, considering you can get all the arrival data at the stops. Is there anything available that I could calculate this on just the headways at different times at a given stop (for example like a train is going to arrive every 10 minutes or every 15 minutes or so). Do you have anything like that?
Answer: Yes, we have all that. One could derive it from something like the Google feed, basically that is our entire schedule in there if you wish to manipulate the data.
Audience Question: Do you have a separate data or a separate table that you can output for headways in a different style or different kinds of ways?
Answer: Yes, we do. We do analyze those kinds of things, headways at different times of the day. There’s a lot of requests from planning perspectives or different recording requirements, such as to how often service runs at every hour of the day, etc.
Audience Question: Don’t they have the same thing at the stickers on bus cubes (located on posts) saying how often they come?
Audience Question: Is there anything that can tell us whether the bus is full? Occupancy? Seats available?
Answer: That’s the hardest thing to do. There is actually data that would be similar, but it would be really hard to know who was on the bus though.
Audience: You don’t collect this information in real-time then?
Answer: It’s not collected in a data file anywhere, no. It’s difficult. We do analyze ridership data, post it after being collected. But not real-time.
Audience Question: Do all your buses have passenger counters?
Answer: They do. But the data is coming off of the bus, but remeber they don’t collect it real-time. They collect the running time data real-time which is what goes NexTrip and gives you that data. But the ridership info really has to be cleaned up. When that data comes in (due to the way it’s transmitted), some things are partial or there’s other transmission issues, or the bus has had some malfunction. So it has to be totally cleaned and matched up to what you think it was supposed to be. Sometimes a trip has 80 people get on and 40 get off. Well, that’s not going to work. So you clean that data and then you post data collection create reports. So it’s not real-time. It’s the weakest thing to collect – it’s the hardest.
Audience: Is real-time malfunction information available?
Answer: There is a dispatch center that does nothing but track everything that’s going on out on the road with all the buses. And there are codes that come up and they become aware. Or the driver’s send in the information.
Audience Question: How do you predict the arrival time of a broken down bus?
Answer: Unfortunately, we don’t at this time.
Audience Question: Do you provide a warning?
Answer: Not a warning. We do have health monitoring systems on our fleet. What we found is our maintenance has to be extremely proactive in addressing all of the health monitoring things that we manage. And as a consequence we don’t have enough staff. I mean, we’re dealing with air conditioners that are breaking, engines that are blowing up. Not, you know, your oil levels and things like that. So it’s not something that’s actually readily used. So I don’t think it’d be of much use to the average person. It’s just not really useful.