When discussing traffic as an information problem I mentioned the role of traffic apps for drivers:

Nowadays real-time traffic info is available for many major US metro areas through both city-specific services and Google Maps. In any given city I tend to think that local info (e.g. TranStar in Houston and 511 in the Bay Area for automobiles, and various iPhone apps for Metro transit in SF/DC) is better than what’s on Google Maps but it’s better than nothing if you’re in a new place. As people become more aware of these services I think they will be able to make more efficient decisions about whether and where to drive. Real-time info, alas, cannot look into the future and tell you whether traffic is getting thicker or thinner on any stretch of road at a given point in time.

Since moving to Durham I have been looking for something similar, either for traffic or the bus system. The one existing app for the DATA bus system is essentially no better than a PDF of the schedule.

Confirming my bias today is the blog "API Evangelist" with a story on how developers are doing the Lord's work in Wisconsin and Sweden. He also points out that the big boys are getting in on this:

I know Google is stepping up to serve this space with Google Maps and Google Transit.  They even have released the General Transit Feed Specification, to help define a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information.  But I think their are huge opportunities for companies to step up and coordinate transit APIs, at the country or regional level, and also for developers to provide local resources for "acquiring" of local data, understanding local constraints, and be the overall contact for a specific locale.

With a clear problem defined, a captured audience rapidly adopting mobile technology, and a developer resource that is willing to invest time and resources to build out APIs, mobile and web apps, and create data visualizations--it just seems like an API industry that is in need of some leadership and coordination.

[via @newsyc20]