2017 Semifinalist
District of Columbia
January 1, 2017
District of Columbia

The District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Public Transit Performance: Analytics and Mobile project provides real-time bus reporting and analytics tools for DDOT’s DC Circulator system by utilizing data gathered through affordable, consumer-grade smartphones. The District of Columbia is home to 681,170 residents and is frequented by millions of visitors. To accommodate the city’s many transit users, DDOT created the DC Circulator system in 2005 to provide links to the District’s many cultural, entertainment and business destinations. The DC Circulator system did not have high-frequency reporting capabilities, which sometimes led to unreliable bus arrival predictions. In 2014 DDOT decided to tackle this issue by improving DC Circulator service reliability. To this end, DDOT installed generic smartphones inside DC Circulator vehicles to improve tracking of the system’s fleet. Such a tracking method existed as proof of concept; many transit agencies were hesitant to adopt it and instead resorted to legacy “black box” solutions to track transit vehicles. DDOT embarked on a pilot project to track several DC Circulator buses through smartphones that were installed on DC Circulator buses. The vehicles were also tracked via customary “black box” hardware, which ultimately proved to be much less reliable tracking devices.

Since the initial pilot, the entire DC Circulator fleet has been outfitted with smartphones, which report bus locations in three-second intervals. Additionally, these smartphones allow DDOT to gain insights into operational issues, such as headway reporting, bus bunching, bus monitoring and other customized business intelligence tools. Aside from the improved data collection and analytics that have come from this project, this system greatly reduces legacy costs as well. DDOT now has a bus tracking and analytical service based on data collected through affordable, consumer-grade hardware (smartphones); it is not tightly coupled with a specialized hardware vendor. Hardware maintenance has been considerably simplified as well – replacing a phone is a relatively clear and simple task. Additionally, this initiative helps District residents and visitors by incorporating the real-time bus locations that are pulled from this project’s data into a mobile app (rideDC Trip Planner) that offers rail and bus predictions and a DC Metro map that features various transit options (rail, bus, bikeshare and carshare) near a user's current location.