Transit Hacks: Maine Mini-Maker Faire 9/8/12


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A proposal for a system of rural transit innovations presented at the Lewiston-Auburn Mini-Maker Faire on September 8th 2012 by CarFree Maine

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Transit Hacks: Maine Mini-Maker Faire 9/8/12

  1. 1. Transportation Hacks by CarFree Maine Presented at the Lewiston/Auburn Mini Maker Faire on 9/8/12Sunday, September 9, 12 Intro. My name is Andrew Jawitz, I’ve been working on transportation issues for the past couple years under the banner of CarFree Maine. I’d like to present today on what I like to call “Transportation Hacks”, because I think we’re living in a moment where a number of developments, both positive and negative are disrupting basic assumptions we have all held regarding how we get around in Maine. I’m going to briefly go over what some of these disruptions are and then concentrate on the opportunities they create for individual innovators especially.
  2. 2., September 9, 12Over the past 4 years the United States has made incredible strides in both reducing dpendence on foreign oil and on fossilfuel combustion as a whole. In the transportation sector innovations in fuel efficiency, plug-in hybrids, and electric batterystorage. But by concentrating technological innovation solely within the auto sector we’ve barely scratched the surface oftransportation challenges.
  3. 3. Sunday, September 9, 12 Citizens, planners and civic leaders have recognized that dense, urban, walkable cities offer a far more efficient and sustainable lifestyle by cutting out the car commute altogether.
  4. 4. Maine Just Wasn’t Built For The Problem Conventional Public Transit Wisdom With Mass Transit In Maine Is “There Isn’t Any Mass” + - = 1. Public Transit only works in large cities 2. Mainers Don’t Want To Give Up Their Cars 3. Maine is a mostly Rural State 4. Transit Infrastructure is too expensive 5. The Government Is Too InefficientSunday, September 9, 12 But what happens to Rural States Like Maine? These are statements I’ve heard from both state lawmakers, and even “urbanists” who tend to equate any region with a “low” population density with suburban sprawl.
  5. 5. Roads? Where we’re going, WE DON’T NEED ROADS!!!Sunday, September 9, 12Sometimes in Maine the model for the future can be found in the past!
  6. 6. Technically, Maine WAS Built For Mass Transit!Sunday, September 9, 12Before the age of cheap oil and federally subsidized interstate highways, all those beautiful New England villages and quaintdowntowns were connected by a rapid transit system comparable to anything found in Europe!
  7. 7. Is it worth saving?Sunday, September 9, 12 I’ve actually heard debates where planners and urbanists have even questioned the need to promote “Low Density” communities at all! BTW... Is is just me...or has the word “rural” disappeared from the lexicon. Its either “Urban” meaning“good” or “Suburban=Low Density” and every now and then “Rural” might appear as a replacement for “Impoverished”. But the question remains “are rural communities solely defined by population density”? Is there a value to preserving rural communities and small cities?
  8. 8. Why is Transportation Important in Maine? Monthly Transportation Costs Per Household •Across America, households in the lowest 20 $1,000.00 percent income bracket spend about 42 percent of their annual income on transportation $750.00 •This burden is especially heavy during periods of high energy costs, since residents of rural areas drive about 17 percent more than than urban $500.00 residents. •Rising gas prices have cut nearly one-third of the $250.00 potential growth in real disposable income, which could have gone to creating more economic activity within the economy, including the travel $0 and tourism industry -AAA Memorial Day 2011 Travel Forecast, IHS Global Insight May 19, 2011 Waldoboro, Maine Brunswick, Maine Portland Maine Boston Mass Average Family Transportation Accomodations Spending Budget in 15% New England Memorial Day Weekend 2011 Auto Transportation Food and Beverages 39% 20% Entertainment 9% Other Shopping 15% 3%Sunday, September 9, 12These are some of the disruptions that are beyond our control. This is happening already.
  9. 9. The thought of living in a place which would require me to own a car ever again gives me chills.  Imagine being beholden to a 2,000 pound piece of metal which sucks 15% of your income every month, makes you pudgy, and does bad things to the environment.- CarFree Baltimore 9 Ages 55+ 86% Under 35 Ages 35-44 74% 73% Traveled to Maine in Personal Car 2010 ➡ Millennials are choosing to drive less for The share of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 environmental reasons. from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995 The proportion of people aged 21-30 actually ➡ This group would drive even less if they could increased from 13.3% to 13.9% find good alternative sources of 20-somethings went from driving a transportation. disproportionate amount of the nations Sources KRC Research 10/2010, highway miles in 1995 to under-indexing for driving in 2009. ➡ Car ownership is prohibitively expensive Department of Transportation for many in this age group. Federal Highway Administrations National Household Travel Survey Census data October 2010 Study by KRC Research-Sunday, September 9, 12Even young tourists tend to drive less than their older counterparts.
  10. 10. Pick an industry, and you’ll find an internet or software company that’s transforming it right now. [Netscape founder Marc] Andreesen notes that we now have the tools to transform nearly any industry -- he points to healthcare and education as prime targets. - Nick Grossman The Opportunity for Civic Startups Web 2.0 Expo 2011 craigslist | classifieds apple | music, phones, cameras amazon | books, retail linkedin | recruiting airbnb | hotels google | direct marketing netflix | videos skype | phones twitter | news* All text and copy this slide - Nick Grossman The Opportunity for Civic Startups Web 2.0 Expo 2011Sunday, September 9, 124. Hand in Hand with this “Urban Renaissance” has been the rise of so-called “Civic Hackers”. The idea of CivicHacking is to bring the same innovative energy found in a Tech Startup, to the public realm. This slide comes from apresentation called “The Opportunity for Civic Startups” by Nick Grossman.
  11. 11. Pick an industry, and you’ll find an internet or software company that’s transforming it right now. [Netscape founder Marc] Andreesen notes that we now have the tools to transform nearly any industry -- he points to healthcare and education as prime targets. - Nick Grossman The Opportunity for Civic Startups Web 2.0 Expo 2011 The tools now exist to transform any institution craigslist | classifieds apple | music, phones, cameras amazon | books, retail linkedin | recruiting airbnb | hotels google | direct marketing netflix | videos skype | phones twitter | news* All text and copy this slide - Nick Grossman The Opportunity for Civic Startups Web 2.0 Expo 2011Sunday, September 9, 124. Hand in Hand with this “Urban Renaissance” has been the rise of so-called “Civic Hackers”. The idea of CivicHacking is to bring the same innovative energy found in a Tech Startup, to the public realm. This slide comes from apresentation called “The Opportunity for Civic Startups” by Nick Grossman.
  12. 12. Closed Model Platform Model Mobile, web & other apps API Real-time Server * This slide - Nick Grossman The Opportunity for Civic Startups Web 2.0 Expo 2011Sunday, September 9, 12This slide is from a non-profit called OpenPlans ( and it shows how an open transit data architectureworks in comparison to a closed-proprietary model.
  13. 13. “Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System” Latitude Research 2010, September 9, 12“Transit Apps”are already having a signifiacnt impact on ridership as this study from the Sustainable Cities Collectiveshows.
  14. 14. Sunday, September 9, 12This is the brand new Trip Planner for Portland Oregon. Its hard to do a demo on a static picture, but its important toexplain why this is different from “Google Maps”.
  15. 15. Sunday, September 9, 12It includes data from Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, and GIS Elevation data. Plus bikeshare, Zipcars and any other infowhich may be useful... because its open source it is amazingly flexible and customizable in ways a proporietary platform couldnever be without acheiving a total monopoloy. Most importantly it is MULTIMODAL... Trip Planners are limited by the datathey have access to, so you might be able to find the Portland MetroBus on Google, but you won’t find Concrod Trailways, orLewiston. It also takes into account bicycle pedestrian info, and bike/transit combosOn this little triangle you can move the circle around to make your preference.
  16. 16. Sunday, September 9, 12So why don’t they appear on this map of cities covered by OpenTripPlanner? There are various reasons including scalabilityand cost. We want to make these technologies more applicable for rural regions and small cities.
  17. 17. Lewiston-Auburn Citylink Ridership 30000 22500 15000 7500 0 2011 2012 February March April MaySunday, September 9, 12So this great stuff is happening in Portland Oregon, and Boston. But what about Rural States Like Maine? It turns outthat the trends affecting transportation nationally are also affecting Mainers. Car ownership is down, while transitridership is up!
  18. 18. Sunday, September 9, 12While Maine may appear as a big blank spot on the open data map, it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have transit options.All these logos represent transit services serving various communities in Maine. The problem? THEY AREN”T CONNECTEDTOGETHER!
  19. 19. Sunday, September 9, 12
  20. 20. MBTA “App Showcase”Sunday, September 9, 12So in a city like Boston, where riders can reasonably expect to go to any downtown bus, or subway station and expect thebus/train to show up within a ten minute interval, these tools are handy... and the case could be made that they contribute toan increase in ridership, the case could also be made that all in all transit “apps” are essentially an added amenity.
  21. 21. Sunday, September 9, 12But in a rural state like Maine, where some services are limited to a single round trip a day... and may require multipletransfers on top of that... Having access to accurate, usable, up-to-date information may mean going without freshgroceries or missing an important medical examination for many. For others it may mean the difference between driving60 miles a day, alone or for others still it may mean not coming to Maine at all.
  22. 22. Transportation Citizens/Riders Professionals Then Operations Planning Consulting Paying for Scheduling Multimodal Fares Interoperability Maintenance Providing Public Engineering Design Input Procurement Fundraising Research Maintenance Planning Now Consulting Paying for Engineering Fares Multimodal Interoperability Providing Scheduling Public Operations Procurement Input Research Design FundraisingSunday, September 9, 12This brings us back to that Venne diagram I showed earlier... not to mention the diagram showing public employees... For aregion like Maine, where access to small-town government is still within reach for most residents... Open Transit Data cango even further by allowing riders to participate in PLANNING decisions previously exclusive to professional PLANNERS.
  23. 23. Grassroots Transit? 2011 Ridership Totals Ethan Allen NY-Rutland VT 49448 Vermonter (DC-St.Albans VT) 77783 Phil-Pitts 207422 Kansas City-St. Louis 186077 DC- Newport News 557528 DC-Lynchburg 162051 Adirondack (NYP-Montreal) 125239Wolverine (Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago) 503290 New Haven-Springfield Shuttle 380000 Downeaster (Boston-Portland) 519000 Chicago-Indianapolis 37249 0 150000 300000 450000 600000Sunday, September 9, 12While official government agencies like MDOT have played a critical role in rebuilding Maine’s public transit infrastructure,recent history teaches us that fundamental change is most likely to begin on the grassroots level. Even sectors requiringenormous capital outlay, meticulous engineering and byzantine regulatory procedures like passenger rail became a reality inMaine only after decades of tireless grassroots organizing by groups lof private citizens. Today, more people ride the Amtrak Downeaster than live in the entire region between Kittery and Bath!
  24. 24. Identifying User Qualitative Research Methods Prioritizing local knowledge Needs Emphasizing quality of place Civic Media Civic Life +Participatory Media Social Networking Infrastructure/ online presence via Memory wordpress, facebook, twitter, vimeo,youtube, Short Form tumblr, meetup, flickr etc... Documentary Series Oral Histories/Interviews Participate in national Explores Historical transportation forums, Interviews with local Transportation Systems conferences residents highlighting and impacts on present mobility challenges on and future systems individual level Partner w/ with V.A, Independence Assoc. and African Diaspora Institute to highlight transit equity issues carfreemaine.orgSunday, September 9, 12Organizations like the Community Transportation Association are beginning to recognize that only evaluating ruralcommunities based on quantitative measurements like population density has serious limitations. They are just beginning toexplore techniques that evaluate “qualitative” value, like the role place may play in a given regions travel patterns. (Case inPoint Acadia National Park...) We’ve been advocating for similar methods and have been designing tools to facilitate bothquality and quantitative analysis.As this approach does require field work. and field work is expensive... Possible solutions might be... EducationalInstitutions... Time Bank...
  25. 25. “ Rural ITS Solutions Need to Be More Flexible ” Federal Transit Administration Research Evolution of Intelligent Transportation Systems for Mobility Management and Coordination Serving California’s Rural Frontier- January 2012 How to Avoid Pitfalls in ITS Innovations Deployed in a Rural Frontier Community (pp21) - MCTC agreed to review any write-up the Contractor saw best to meet their internal needs for use-cases; however, with such limited MCTC staff, there was not time or resource for a small frontier rural agency to undertake another time-consuming complex use case document. This is one example of challenges the Contractor and the agency could not resolve through this ITS project or through functional prototyping. Similar ITS trip planner initiatives spent months to years developing the use-case scenarios while user expectations and technological capacities are changing so fast—as soon as the specifications are buttoned up, a new expectation pops up. Future ITS projects may consider a modified approach to detailed use- cases because technologies and user expectations are changing so rapidly. Alternatively, as with the OpenTripPlanner project, a shared vision through on- line collaboration brought a next generation of multi-modal trip planner to production in just 12 months. OpenTripPlanner continues to evolve swiftly with changes in technologies and user expectations. 19 OpenTripPlanner is fully deployed as a multi-modal trip planner for Tri-Met in Portland, OR. For more information on various initiatives and projects, visit http:// Future rural ITS projects should have clear, specific milestones that can be accomplished in six to nine months. Each of these milestone tasks will roll up to the larger project vision, with future data integration in-mind. This should avoid the possibility that a project is lost in a litany of uncertain requirements, the programming team is overwhelmed, or, worse, they find themselves unable to succeed.Sunday, September 9, 12The federal government has finally started to take notice of rural needs over the past few months. This has been promptedin part by fears of a “reverse white flight” phenomenon, where “Inner City” are now prime real esate, driving low incomepopulations further out into non-accessible areas. Some of these studies directly address the need for “Rural Transit ITSSolutions” Of these specific Rural challenges- “Demand Response” support in OpenTripPlanner and the status of cellular infrastructure.
  26. 26. How it will work- Desktop/Laptop ComputerSmall Monitor in Tablet • Scheduling Computer • Interactive Mapping Local • Geolocation • Ticketing • Contribute p2p Data Establshment • Interactive Mapping •Real Time Arrival Info • Route Info Next Bus -7.06Min Cell Phone SMS • Real Time Location Time • Contribute GeoData • Ticketing • Contribute p2p Web-Based GeoData Application Internet Enabled TV Smart Phone Dedicated Server • Real Time Location Time • Scheduling • Contribute GeoData • Trip Planning • Ticketing •Online Ticketing • Contribute p2p GeoData • Interactive Mapping • Scheduling Real-Time Data Feed • Trip PlanningSunday, September 9, 12Cloud based technologies enable a wide variety of interactions for people in a diversity of settings. SMS, Screens, TV,Desktiop, Tablets, Smartphones.
  27. 27. Transit Appliance Portland Oregon Open Transit Linux-based software easily loads to recycled monitor displays Hardware Examples Transit Appliance running on Transit Appliance running on recycled PC monitor $60 Chumby digital picture frame “Homebrew” Transit Stop Notifiers built with Open Source “Arduino” Hardware and Open Transit Data Real-time Bus notifier Travelboard Norwalk CT. signals when bus is See also and Livable Norwalk approaching Real-time GPS tracker with Mobile phone uplink Arlington VA Analog dial bus location Java Shack Coffee Shop tracker using Arduino and Pilot Project OneBusAway softwareSunday, September 9, 12By employing an open source, cloud-based architecture it allows us to reach wider audience by configuring hardware forspecific audiences.
  28. 28. Low-Cost Digital Signage for Transit Raspberry Pi Microcomputer ~ $250 (new) ~ $35 RPi Enclosure attached to back of monitorSunday, September 9, 12The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer created to teach children programming skills by providing them with a very low-cost($35) but powerful platform. It is designed to connect to any monitor through an HDMI or standard component connection, whichincludes any television set. Its 256MB of RAM is powerful enough to turn any TV monitor into a fully functioning Transit InformationDisplay or even ticketing kiosk.
  29. 29. Raspberry Pi- $35 Microcomputer • Created by non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation to stimulate computer science education in schools • Initial run of 10,000 units sold out within five minutes of launch on 2/29/2012 • Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC),which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU and 256 megabytes of RAM. It does not include a built-in hard diskor solid-state drive, but uses an SD card for booting and long-term storage. • Foundation provides Debian and Arch Linux ARM distributions for download. Also planned are tools for supporting Python as the main programming language,with support for BBC BASIC, (using the "Brandy Basic" clone), C,and Perl. • Outputs for Analog RCA and HDMI enables connection to majority of Television screens • OS on SD Card allows for infinite customizations • Can interface with Arduino Microcontrollers to extend capability • Wide variety of enclosures available to enable infinite applications.Sunday, September 9, 12More RPi Specs.
  30. 30. Sunday, September 9, 12Before we can have open transit data however, we need data in the first place. So far only the Island Explorer has a real-time location capability and it is based on software designed in the early 2000s. The problem is government contractorscharge enormous amounts of money for the complete “enterprise” level system... Which has its advantages, but afforabilityisn’t one of them. original idea for Arduino only as prototype, but in the interests of flexibility it may actually make more sense to keep the set-up as basic as possible so as to enable easy customization when the need arises.
  31. 31. * Slides 30-33 from Article called “Flexible Bus Systems Using Zigbee as a Communication Medium” (, September 9, 12Possibly the biggest obstacle to any open source networking hardware deployments is in the fact that wireless transmissiontowers are almost exclusively dominated by the large telecoms. In the case of GSM communications it also presents a majorobstacle for remote communities who lack coverage.A potential game-changing solution comes in a form of networking known as a Mobile Ad-Hoc Network.(Slides 30-34)
  32. 32. * Slides 30-33 from Article called “Flexible Bus Systems Using Zigbee as a Communication Medium” (, September 9, 12
  33. 33. * Slides 30-33 from Article called “Flexible Bus Systems Using Zigbee as a Communication Medium” (, September 9, 12
  34. 34. * Slides 30-33 from Article called “Flexible Bus Systems Using Zigbee as a Communication Medium” (, September 9, 12
  35. 35. Text carfreemaine.orgSunday, September 9, 12
  36. 36. A DIY, Foldable Electric BicycleThis Electric Bicycle was built for under $500 on a folding frame. The bike can be easily disassembled for storage on Intercity Motorcoach or Railway Luggage Rack. Applications like the “Speedict” app for Androidserve a variety of functions, measuring everything from speed and battery life to GPS tracking and navigationSunday, September 9, 12Electric Bicycles hold enormous promise in areas with low transit accessibility by increasing the range riders may havebetween their home and the nearest transit station. This electric bicycle prototype was designed by CarFree Maine to foldinto a carrying case for easy storage on an Intercity Motorcoach or a passenger rail luggage rack.
  37. 37. Sunday, September 9, 12
  38. 38. Boston MA 128 Minutes w/Bicycle The Speedict Sensor ( reads and logs EBIKE voltage, elevation, and location data and converts an Android phone into a dashboardSunday, September 9, 12The DIY nature of the E-Bike community has led to innovations like the “Speedict” sensor, which transmits (and evencontrols) EBIKE battery power, temp, location, speed, and elevation data to a Smart Phone (or specially configured standardcell phone) which serves as a dashboard and data logger. Such logs can be very useful for future networks if uploaded to an OpenStreetMap database.
  39. 39. Challenge Conventional Solution Open Source Solution Paratransit, Commuter Vanpools and paratransit are Low population in rural Vans and Park and Ride 1-800-VANPOOL integrated into regional transit areas can not support lots are subsidized network allowing for scalable regularly scheduled service. through state and federal access in small communities. Majority of population lives taxes. Automobile Location transmitters add in low-density regions with ownership is still a 1-800-VANPOOL microtransit to the list of low or no transit access. necessity for most available choices. citizens. Massive resources Regional transit agencies $ $ allocated to adopt an open standard and Transit services are centralized provide data sets to civic managed seperately entrepreneurs who develop bureaucratic authority with limited applications according to and out of state connectivity. individual community needs consulting firms. Riders must wait outdoors Next Bus -7.06Min $ Outdoor Digital Display-$25,000 Next Bus -7.06Min Civic entrepreneur partners with local $ Proprietary Vehicle business near stop until bus arrives. Location Software to display real time Schedules are $60,000+ bus location approximate. $ maintenance information. Civic entrepreneur partners No Bikes allowed on Amtrak Bike Car with local business to Downeaster except for Wells participate in bike-share and Portland (neither of program. Partner Partner with non-profit to form Bike-Train which have easy access to businesses are provided program with additional “bike car”. Similar bicycle facilities) with Android tablets with programs exist on the MBTA, MNRR, preinstalled software. VIARail and GOTransitSunday, September 9, 12With the world of possibilities enabled by open source frameworks, its very possible that rural regions will be able to offercomparable advantages to people who chose not to relocate to urban settings.
  40. 40. 1-800-VANPOOL 1-800-VANPOOL 6:00PM 6:00AM 6:59AM Next Bus Lunch -7.06Min Run 1-800-VANPOOL 11:30AM 12:45PM 4:00PM 4:30PM 5:00PM 6:00PMSunday, September 9, 12An average workday in the future.1- With access to a range of transportation choices “Seth” will be able to plan his workday the previous evening by navigating to his digital day-planner on his television screen. 2- He can choose to reserve a spot on a vanpool and must confirm at least an hour before the vanpool route is finalized. Vans will be assignedto communities based on a “Groupon” model if enough people sign up from a given location. 3- At lunchtime “Seth” opens up the transit planner and searches for restaurants/coffee shops matching the inbound/outbound schedule hechooses from the local circulator bus route.4- A monitor at the coffee shop lets him know how much time he has left to finish his coffee. 5- With most of his office workload finished by then end of the day Seth decides to take his work home with him. The vanpool offers a direct rideto the workplace, but will not be flexible enough to account for changes in plans and will not be suited for writing on his laptop.6-A train will be departing at 4:30PM and will allow him to do the last 30 minutes of work on the ride home.7-But the station is almost 15 miles from his house, so he picks up an electric bike from the Bikeshare and arrives home within a half-hour.8-That evening he can either choose to ride the ebike back to the station in the morning or find another rider in his neighborhood to give the biketo. The Bikeshare dashboard will provide him with the weather conditions for the following day and can even recommend what kind of clothing towear.
  41. 41. @carfreemaine CarFree MaineSunday, September 9, 12The Modified Transit Display, Folding EBIKE, Microtracker, and Mesh Networking projects are all open for input and welcomecollaboration! You can find an open wiki at Be sure to follow CarFree Maine on Facebook, Twitter,Youtube, Flickr and many others! You can find this presentation and up-to-date Maine transit news on our Thank You Very Much!