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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BART launches API to spur innovation in transit app development

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Jan. 25 marked the formal launch of BART's expanded API. API stands for Application Programming Interface - sets of routines, data structures and protocols that support the building of applications. BART has a long commitment to making its data open to the public - such as the schedules for trains, and advisories when there are delays. We were the first Bay Area transit agency to provide public open data, starting in 2007.

The ways the public gets that data have evolved and expanded over time, as new technologies have come along to deliver information faster, more accurately and on a plethora of platforms. In the past the public got data from BART directly - they went to the QuickPlanner on the main website, or called the phone lines, or looked at an electronic sign in a station, or, more recently, used a mobile device to access our mobile site, or to get an email or text message sent directly from us to you.

And customers still can. But BART wants to tap into the rich vein of innovation that already exists here in the Bay Area, and make our data available to developers who can use it to create services our customers want. The API does just that. It makes publicly available more BART data than ever before, and does so in a way that developers can use more easily.

The BART API will help developers make apps for whatever BART customers need.  And, with a developer e-mail list and an online discussion group that BART sponsors for developers, the agency can be a liaison to help convey customer needs to them.

BART is asking customers to give a little thought to what kinds of data-related products or services might improve their BART experience. Some applications (some free and some for a fee, available on multiple platforms and devices) already exist and are listed in BART's app center.

BART will collect those thoughts to share with developers. The agency doesn't endorse any particular application, but wants to encourage competition and innovation that will result in the best possible products and services for the BART customer.

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