1 Boarding 2 Next Page 3 4



“Honk!” says the woman. I step aside and she rolls 3,000 pounds of herself past me.

“Rrrrreeevvvvv.Whhoooosshhhshhhshhhf” says the man. He must be in a hurry. He ejects a bottle: perhaps it was only indigestion.


Comments: Leave one?
Posted in: Aphorism



A stranger in a mask, entering a civilized place, will be turned away.

Where may those with tinted windows go?


Comments: Leave one?
Posted in: Aphorism

A very preliminary bus tardiness distribution

Briefly following up on the previous post:

I’ve started working with Champaign-Urbana’s real-time departure API. Right now, I’m using a little Python script to send requests and store them in a local PostgreSQL database. Below is a probability density plot from the first 1,000 or so data points I’ve pulled down. It’s only from the weekday mornings when I’ve run the script, mostly from the 150 stops I queried just a moment ago.

A very preliminary tardiness density plot

But it looks like my prediction (see the earlier post) may not have been terribly far from the mark.

The next step is to determine a programmatic way to randomly query particular arrivals to make sure I avoid any systematic error in the sampling. This is necessary because I’m limited to 1,000 API calls per day and can’t just hammer their server with requests for every scheduled arrival.

I’m also recording location attributes for all these records so I’ll be able to do some spatial analysis too :-)

Comments: Leave one?
Posted in: Data
Tags: | | |

Predicting a distribution of bus tardiness

I’m about to start digging into various real-time data feeds for American (bus) transit systems. For the most part right now I’m interested in finding a simple,  average distribution of lateness/earliness across all stops, the idea being that this could help riders predict, without live real-time feeds, when the bus is most likely to show up, by looking only at a fixed schedule.

Are buses more likely to be late than early? What percentage of buses are early, anyway? If it’s already five minutes late, is it very likely it’s coming in the next minute? Or should you start walking? What’s the difference in tardiness distributions between frequent and infrequent services? Are there types of places in a city which have consistently different distributions?

In the name of science, I’d like to make a prediction, ie. state my hypothesis, before I’ve collected any actual data. So here it is:

Predicted Bus TardinessI think that overall the distribution will have a strong late skew, a very short early tail, and a wide second hump around the time a second bus might start bunching up on the one in question. I’ll guess that between 10% and 20% of buses running on fixed schedules will be at least a few seconds early and that the median will be about 2 minutes late.

Now…anyone want to suggest a city with a real-time feed? I have my eye set on Portland at the moment but only because I’m have trouble finding decent APIs.

Comments: 1
Posted in: Analysis | Data
Tags: | | | |

Dreaming of Open Data

As SORTA continues it’s endless dissembling, and TANK more honestly lacks the resources, I wonder if the bikeshare of all things will beat both to the postmodern age and release real-time fleet location data.

Dare a boy dream of such things? Perhaps a less cynical one might.

But in the meantime, if anyone is curious to see the actual locations of the bike share stations as they’re installed(which, oddly I have not seen anywhere else yet), I’ve been adding them to OpenStreetMap as I find them. Look for nodes tagged ‘amenity’=’bicycle_rental’ and ‘network’=’Red Bike’, or Tiny Bike on the main OSM map stylesheet. Or just follow that link for a map with dynamic query results ;-)

I know of 11 stations as I write this.

Comments: 4
Posted in: Data
Tags: | | | |

TANK’s Failure of Communication

Fireworks are worth shutting down a major city.

Said no one ever, but for the dipshit who decided that’s what Cincinnati was going to do.

For the second year in a row, I have been confounded by a preposterous barrier: at 7pm today, all the bridges shut down. Every one of them. For everyone. For the second year in a row, this has disrupted well laid plans with my boyfriend in Kentucky. This year it was fireworks at a friend’s house. Last year it was an anniversary dinner already in the oven.

Now let’s be clear; disruptions are normal in some transportation systems and that’s why we have redundancies. Bus not working? Take a bike. No go there? Hail a cab. Still no? Walk!
What we’re dealing with here is a complete breakdown in the whole system for every mode. There is no tunnel under the river. Every crossing is shut. With the number of boats in the water, swimming isn’t even safe. I was lucky last year though: one of my redundancies worked. After trying to bike across literally every bridge, the fourth police officer I talked to told me TANK might be running. It was, and I caught the last one over with my bike, arriving very late to dinner, but still, arriving.

This time though, I didn’t make it. Seeing the bridges were closed, and remembering last year, I headed directly to the TANK stop on fourth. I got there and was relieved to see half a dozen people at the stop. Now normally, this is a good sign. It means that the bus is almost there, because people have had time to pile up.

But in this case, it was a sign of TANK’s complete failure to communicate the fact that they simply stopped operating the most critical link in their whole system.1

When SORTA shuts down a stop, or changes service on short notice, at least they post signs literally over top of the bus stop signs. “This stop is closed temporarily. Walk to …” Something like that. (Other agencies often go quite a bit beyond that.)

For TANK’s downtown stops tonight, there was absolutely nothing. And as I write this, I’m certain that there are people sitting on those dirty little benches in front of the Federal Reserve cursing a late bus that they don’t know will simply never come.

Now, without defending the logic of the shut-down decision, I presume that it goes something like this: People driving on bridges would get distracted and wreck their cars…yadda yadda yadda. Now let’s not even get into why humans on foot cant cross (I can feel my blood pressure really starting to rise at this point). Let’s assume that that’s the logic and point out that the only people who can and do drive TANK buses are professional drivers who presumably can’t be so easily distracted, and certainly not on an otherwise empty road. Why the flying fuck can’t TANK keep running normally through the fireworks??? I understand that some stupid car-blind engineer might think to shut down the bridges, but what really gets me is that no one at TANK had the balls or the ability or perhaps the desire to stand up for themselves and insist that they continue to operate a critical service through this silly spectacle.

That failure being swallowed of necessity, it’s even more galling that they didn’t think to post even one notice at their single most active stop2 where, as I say, people are almost certainly still waiting at this very moment for a bus that won’t ever come.

I’m properly pissed. I’m pissed at the City. I’m pissed at TANK for not standing up for themselves, and I’m pissed at TANK doubly for not telling it’s passengers that they won’t be coming. To my mind, this is as big a (short-term) failure as a transit system is capable of making.

TANK, you should be ashamed. Learn from it, but feel shame no less for that pragmatic consolation. TANK failed it’s riders tonight.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I am prepared to back this up with data already provided by TANK.
  2. Again, I can prove this.
Comments: Leave one?
Posted in: Talking about Transit
Tags: | | |
1 Boarding 2 Next Page 3 4