Ever waited for a Muni bus? Duh. Of course you have, and it’s just that anxiety — a state felt by thousands, according to key findings in Ljuba Miljkovic’s research for his master’s thesis at the UC Berkeley School of Information — that has fueled the creation of Muni apps. That, and the open data needed to make them.
Miljkovic himself created the Transporter, a free app for the iPhone. It tells riders when the next bus will come, shows route lines, and has been downloaded 3,000 times since it launched in May.
It’s at least the seventh transit application to take advantage of NextBus data since November 2009, when the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency officially claimed ownership and opened the data to developers.
Since the SFMTA won, Routesy is back up and competing against others that began crowding into the field, including Go to There, which launched in December 2009, Metronow in January 2010, MuniMe in February, PocketMuni in March, MuniApp 2 in April, Transporter in May and Muniverse in July.
Each is trying to find a niche.
Transporter and Go to There, for example, stand out because they are free. Others range in price from 99 cents to $5.99.
Four of the apps can save favorite lines, four have trip planners and one offers Muni-related tweets.
Like many of the developers, Miljkovic and Nick O’Neil, who developed Muniverse, created the app because they rode Muni and understood some of the anxiety.
“There [are] a bunch of public transit apps,” Miljkovic said, “I wasn’t particularly in love with them, they didn’t help me with the way I use public transit.”
He wanted an app that told him when the buses arrived at their destinations and displayed nearby stops, he said.
Public transit developers are not the only ones benefiting from the city’s open data policy.
The restaurant inspection data released by the Department of Public Health, a reader pointed out, has been used to create Clean Scores, SparkleDine and Restaurant Inspection. However, the data gives only a vague description of the violations, a score between 0-100 and occasionally some inspector notes.
Nicholas Capizzani, the developer of the San Francisco Parking iPhone app, told Mission Local in June that he was in talks with the SFMTA about using real-time data from the SFPark program once it is available.
O’Neil said the experience with the Muni data and NextBus has helped others by setting a precedent that city data is open data.
Without it, he added, apps like his “would not be possible.”
What is your favorite Muni app?