San Francisco Transit Mashups: the BART API

Kevin Farnham
Nov. 28 2008, 01:29AM EST

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) provides the San Francisco and Bay Area, CA region with one of the most innovative public transportation services in the United States. Now BART offers developers the BART API. The BART API provides real-time estimated time of arrival (ETA) feeds, transit schedules, advisory feeds, and trip planning information. Our new BART API profile has details and joins a growing list of transit-related APIs including government-sponsored web services Portland's Trimet API as well as commercial services like the Hopstop API and Urban Mapping's Mass Transit Proximity API which we covered earlier this month.

BART's API has an active dataset with the BART ETA feed being updated every 60 seconds. Each data record includes the station name, station abbreviation, date and time, and numerous ETA elements. Each ETA element has a destination and can show up to the next three trains that will arrive at the station.

The BART API is REST-based with data returned in the form of XML RSS feeds. The API is open with no fees or usage limitations for developers. Their API documentation includes a page for each of the primary API feeds. The documentation for each feed includes an overview and a representative example of the XML feed. For example, the Real Time ETA Feed documentation provides the station abbreviations and an example ETA feed.

The BART team also provides an Embedded QuickPlanner for web sites that routinely provide directions to customers and visitors. The QuickPlanner lets people enter a starting location, destination, and time, and returns the schedule of upcoming transportation choices for the trip, the cost, a map, and more.

BART encourages developers to drop us a line" with questions or suggestions for future enhancements. There is an opt-in email list, and API-related news is also published on the updates RSS feed.

With 5 APIs tagged "transit" in our directory and another one coming soon, this is a category that we expect to grow and provides developers useful data for a range of applications.

Kevin Farnham

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[...] In the vein of the U.S.'s DATA.gov initiative, the city rolled out the NYC BigApps program this week, an invitation for developers everywhere to get their hands dirty using the city’s data. With complete access to over 170 data sets, found on the NYC.gov Data Mine, it is expected that we’ll begin to see a series of innovative mobile and online applications. As the deputy mayor said during Tuesday's NY Tech Meetup, this is “just the beginning” and the city “plans to open more data sets in the future.” Hopefully we'll see useful applications like those built on San Francisco's BART data sets. [...]