DDOT Real-time bus tracker MVP


  • Description: The DDOT BusTracker consists of a two-pronged approach to bus-arrival notification. The first component includes building an API to expose real-time bus data in partnership with the Detroit Department of Transportation. By releasing GTFS-real time data, live arrival and departure times can be fed directly out of DDOT’s existing (currently closed) GPS-enabled bus fleet. Once the data is made available and re-formatted for development; the second component will include an SMS-based consumer of the API as a demonstration app.
  • Impact: DDOT BusTracker will provide a critical information need to an extremely vulnerable group reliant on public transportation. Those without access to private transportation represents 20% of Detroit’s metro population, (approximately 140,000 people). These riders are the elderly, disabled, youth, and the most economically disadvantaged. According to a 2010 FCC Report, there is over 105% cell phone penetration in metro Detroit (including multiple devices). With SMS-based communication being nearly ubiquitous in Detroit, a flexible SMS-friendly app in conjunction with existing bus-shelter infrastructure represents an incredible opportunity for an accessible, popular technology-based solution. The creation of a successful real-time information system that can be accessed in multiple modes (SMS, smartphone) curtails issues like public safety concerns (young/elderly waiting on the street for hours alone); loss of jobs (no way to call ahead to inform employer of potential absence/lateness); and generally contributes to a better quality of life for riders. In addition to helping the urban poor already reliant on public transportation, a reliable method for predicting bus arrival time will support increased public transportation ridership from other groups who currently avoid the bus (tourists, university students, new Detroit residents). Real-time bus data has become commonplace in major metropolitan areas across the globe — but is far less common in smaller cities like Detroit. By opening up a real-time API, the evolution of this project will include an economic development component by encouraging the existing web development community to build competitive apps built around real-time transportation data. Similar ventures (routsey.com) have been extremely successful in places like San Francisco and NYC, where entire companies have been built around the opening of transportation data. Supporting the growing number of web developers and designers in the Detroit area will also provide added value in contributing to an incubation of web-based talent in Detroit. Additionally, this system can be scaled up to include regional transit information — spurring a revolutionary move toward efficiency, data standards, and provide a modern, cutting-edge approach to public transportation in Michigan and the Mid-West.
  • Tags: detroit, DDOT, bus, data


  • User Testing & Iteration
    Planned Completion On:
  • Formal Project Launch
    Planned Completion On: 08-31-12
  • Project Description
    Completed On 06-01-12
  • MVP Design & Development
    Planned Completion On: 07-27-12
    Coming soon!
    Coming soon!