Chicago commuters just got a new resource that may lead to more helpful mashups: the Chicago Transit Authority Bus Tracker API. As recently announced, the API provides capability for developers to get bus routes and schedules, bus stop and arrival predictions, and more. Note that the API is not affiliated with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA); rather, it was developed and is maintained by Harper Reed, who says the CTA has been "amazingly cool with all of this." In announcing the API, Harper wrote:
The genesis for this API is some work I did awhile ago reverse engineering the CTA Bus Tracker mashup. I was able to expose the endpoints that powered their google maps mashup. In its original state - you can get some pretty awesome functionality and data. I am attempting to clean it up and make it more robust.
Reverse engineering an API requires a lot of creative investigation into the source code that is publicly available in mashups that apply the undocumented API. For example, we recently reported on Index Content's discovery of "Reddit's Secret API".
The Commuting In Chicago site applies the CTA Bus Tracker API to allow users to set schedules and preferred bus routes. As you revisit the site, the application recommends bus routes and shows current bus locations that correspond to your routes.
Last week we reported on the innovations the BART API is providing to developers of San Francisco transit mashups. They may be new, but we already have 6 transit APIs in our directory. The mashups they enable should provide a new and exciting service for city transit users.