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Coloring Transit GPS Tracks by Azimuth

I’ve been spending today getting pretty seriously turned on by more than 400,000 transit GPS tracks colored according to their azimuth (measured from start and end points). Beside being pretty, it ends up being a stupendously good way to differentiate tracks which otherwise run quite close together.

Would anyone be interested in prints if I were to make some?

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Posted in: Design | Maps
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SORTA’s Real-time API Now Available for Developers

Yep. It’s finally here! :-D

Vehicle location feed:
Trip update feed:

The data is structured according to the GTFS real-time specification. I was able to parse it pretty easily in Python by following the instructions on that page. The fields currently included in the feed (many are optional in the specification) are as follows.

VehicleLocation feed sample data:

id: "4001"
vehicle {
  trip {
    trip_id: "940867"
  position {
    latitude: 39.1043395996
    longitude: -84.3908996582
  timestamp: 1421889007
  vehicle {
    label: "4001"

TripUpdate feed sample data:

id: "938755"
trip_update {
  trip {
    trip_id: "938755"
    start_time: "17:07:00"
    start_date: "20150121"
    route_id: "1"
  stop_time_update {
    stop_sequence: 5
    departure {
      delay: 60
      time: 1421878357
    stop_id: "EZZJOHe"
  stop_time_update {
    stop_sequence: 32
    arrival {
      delay: 60
      time: 1421880000
    stop_id: "PAR2610e"
  vehicle {
    label: "1001"

The feeds update every 30 seconds, which seems a little slow, but oh well.

Right now, my understanding is that these feeds have been tentatively released as-is for developers only, and that SORTA is not ready yet to make a general public announcement that real-time data is available. Tim Harrington at SORTA, who shared the links with us, has politely asked to see the neat stuff that we’re able to develop with this data. I imagine that the sooner someone sends him a link to a decent, working app, the sooner they’ll give us the go-ahead and the sooner we’ll all be able to use this data in every-day situations.

So who’s gonna make an app? There must be a dozen open-source applications that are already designed to work with GTFS-realtime. We probably just need to plug this feed in and maybe make a few localization tweaks. If you or anyone you know has the skills and/or interest to make an app…then for the love of transit, let’s make this happen ASAP!

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Posted in: Data | Events
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Mysterious Image…you should be able to guess what this is if you’ve been reading the blog lately. You should also then know why I’m very, very excited about it :-)

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Posted in: Events
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At least and
Not badly, they
Know their role

Only working here for now
Ready to defend
The way things

Haiku is dumb. Or perhaps just poorly transliterated?

Iambic tetrameter???

I rode the TANK and I did see
a friendly driver condescend
to stop the bus and wait for me
the only rider end to end.

“Remove your hoods!” the speaker blares,
the driver has gone mute it seems.
Uncivil  stretch from here to there,
we nod our heads and sheath our dreams.

I think these work better for English, but maybe I just like rhymes like some sort of poetic simpleton.

And fuck SORTA, by the way. Those damn speakers are dehumanizing and awful. They said they were for ad revenues and now they have the system in place they’re abusing us with their own radio voice actor shit every ten damn seconds.

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Posted in: Aphorism
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Mapping death

It’s been a while since I posted on this topic, but a clever thought has brought it back to my attention.

Last year, I spent a little time exploring the City of Cincinnati’s publicly available 591-6000 dataset, a list of calls to the City’s public service help-line. It’s the kind of thing your unpleasant neighbours call in to when they want to nag the City for not fixing a crack in the sidewalk or when they’re otherwise too lazy to do do something themselves; also, sometimes for legitimate reasons like broken signs and overflowing trash cans. Most interesting to me is that you can call the number to report that an animal is dead, almost always after having been struck by a reckless driver, these invariably having not the fortitude or the decency to carry through the butchery that they’ve initiated. As a result, a living animal is reduced to a body, and the body is indecent and must be removed.

What I created then was a map showing a kernel density approximation of callers asking the city to basically pick up a rotting corpse in the right-of-way. I think that’s a pretty fucked-up thing to establish a bureaucracy for, so I mapped it! It occurred to me that a kernel density map looks like a splatter of blood if the colors are right, and so that’s what I tried to do. I even sampled the colors directly from a photo of a dissection.

map of roadkill deaths in Cincinnati ohio, 2008-2013But it didn’t come out like I had it in my mind…My clever thought then is the reason why: I was using pixels instead of blood!

-_-    duh.

The plan now, and I’m not sure what I’ll ever do with this, is to print a nice base-map on some decent paper, and then to either screenprint or stencil the density function over top with blood and other body fluids from some of the actual animals I’m concerned with.  Initially, I asked my partner to bleed me, which he politely refused. It seems however, and the data doesn’t at all contradict this, the city is full enough with violent death that I needn’t worry my own fingers. He gave me a small bottle of blood and the promise of more.

bottle of bloodI picked up some paper from the neighbourhood art store and I used this to test some swatches.

blood swatchesAnd I liked the color best on the off-white paper, so that’s what I’m currently designing for. I tossed together a super-simple base map this morning.

blood-mapWhat will it look like when it’s done? How will it serve as a pretence for me to finally use that giant laser-cutting-machine? What’s the point in a ‘society’ that clearly doesn’t give one-tenth of a shit?

Tune in next time.

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Posted in: Maps
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Plans, 2015

Where are we going here? I like to have these little check-ins every so often. Just you and I, reader. I’m having fun writing this, but are you having fun reading it? I just bet you are. But am I actually having fun, you ask? Perhaps I should stop reading meta-novels and explain myself.

When I started this blog, I came up with a big fancy mission statement, all full of pomp and purpose. Some bullshit about improving the transit system and the average person’s understanding of it…yadda yadda yadda. A year ago I scribbled all that out in a fit of cynicism. Then I allowed this little rant or this one to pass out of my database and into someone else’s. Clearly I’m engaged in negative attention seeking here to some degree, no matter how thoroughly I fail to attract any. The Authority’s door is closed and bolted and here I am like a jilted stalker, banging and hollering.

One should really get on with one’s life, you say politely.

I appreciate your discretion, reader. One should…

But let me deflect for a moment to ask about you, reader. Just who are you anyway? (Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? No?) But let me guess, let me be a terrible bore and guess who you are. By your manner, I can tell you’re a connoisseur. A sponge for ideas, sucking and filtering and digesting the delectables. Firmly planted, for life if the angelfish don’t get you, you’ll grow large here.

Why do we find ourselves here anyway? Is it the rich current? Is there any point to asking the question? Am I plankton in this metaphor? Reader, I hope you won’t let me punish myself with that diminutive. Bless you. Yes, why yes, I must be a shark. Thank you. That’s much better. The stray blood can feed you just as well, can’t it? Cells are cells after all and we all love that yummy protoplasm.

Sponges are hardly clever, reader, and I hope you don’t think I insult by analogy. I mean only to imply settlement. How about a barnacle? They use their lives to build elaborate structures that every once in a while must be scrubbed off the bottoms of ships. They also have more complicated organs I presume.

Myself on the contrary, I find I’m quite unable to stop swimming, even if I do keep circling the dock…enough — this is getting silly.

I wanted to write about transit because I want to change it. But I find the situation quite impossible, and so I propose now as consolation that I write for my own amusement. I’m no good for organizations anyway. I only cause trouble. I keep catching myself with the goals of a diplomat and the inclinations of a grenadier. Perhaps, you say, I should adopt the goals of a grenadier? That’s an interesting suggestion, reader…a great many resources have been freed by the precise use of dynamite…

What are we even talking about? Reader, why is it that whenever I talk with you, we both get so bogged down in metaphor? Sharks, explosives, and this whole elaborate analogy with Ace and the Doctor and a missing TARDIS that I haven’t even worked out yet…

I mean, I suppose, that I must leave a tired Apollo to consort with his livelier brother; Do some thrashing that we both may feed; Become prankish, that word I keep circling back to.

Here is my plan for the coming months on this the Cincinnati Transit Blog, the name of which itself now chafes me with it’s seriousness:

  1. Get those KINDA t-shirts posted online, perhaps giving them to the homeless if they don’t sell.
  2. Make some absurd transit related bumper stickers. I have a few ideas on this already. Let the cars be explicit in their condemnation!
  3. Place bus tokens on the streetcar tracks so that the new may flatten the ‘old’. Sell them as trinkets at a trendy OTR shop for a ridiculous markup.
  4. Find a new patron once my term with the current one expires(anyone??)
  5. Engage promiscuously with other cities.
  6. Make sweeping and provocative generalizations.
  7. Design SORTA’s mascot, the counterpart of TANK Man and probably a pig.
  8. Burn some bridges to warm myself by the fire. Anyway, I’m either catching a helicopter out or descending…
  9. Aphorism.
  10. Poetry.
  11. Speak only to my equals.
  12. Keep reading, keep searching, move on.

Are you still there, reader?

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Posted in: Personal
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