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Boston's real-time transit data: "Better than winning the World Series"

What happens when you combine two risk-taking government employees, an active developer community, and a bus schedule? Unlimited amounts of innovation, improved customer service, praise for an embattled government agency, and a model for building a government/citizen developer partnership. Hear how the Massachusetts Department of Transportation learned from TriMet that open is better.

That was the pitch for Laurel Ruma's Ignite Gov talk. Ruma, who works at O'Reilly, is the co-chair of the upcoming Where 2.0 conference, which will focus on innovation in open data, civic innovation and geolocation, along with many other aspects of mobile technology.

"This was the best thing the MBTA had done in its history," said Ruma, exploring the backstory behind the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's (MBTA) move to make real-time data available.

The decision to release and support open transit data online has spawned a new ecosystem of mobile applications, many of which are featured at MBTA.com. The addition of real-time transit data could add more value to the apps offering help for MBTA riders that went online in 2009, like the Mass Transit app that has been making money for SparkFish Creative.

While some diehard Red Sox fans might differ with Ruma on whether real-time transit data is better than breaking the Curse in 2004, even the most hardened New Englander can see the value in knowing when the next T is going to arrive. Or, as cynical Boston mass transit commuters might hasten to add, when it won't.


Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl