Chris Smith’s new “Transit Appliance”

Chris Smith and his “Transit Appliance”.
-Watch video below-

Transportation expert, blogger, and citizen activist extraordinaire Chris Smith unveiled his new “Transit Appliance” at the Rail-volution today. The new device is simple but has potential to be extremely effective.

With a $179 device, some open data, and a wi-fi signal, Smith’s Transit Appliance (could use a better name perhaps?) broadcasts transit arrival information for anyone that happens by. It’s sort of like the arrival/departure screens at the airport.

Watch the short Streetfilm below for a quick introduction by Mr. Smith himself:

The World’s First “Transit Appliance” from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

I love this! It’s the perfect marriage of open data (and agencies like TriMet that are cool enough to 1) have it and 2) share it) and a passionate and smart citizen activist. Nice work Chris. I hope to see these screens popping up all over town… and who’s to say these devices couldn’t be hacked to offer bike route information?

Read more at PortlandTransport.com.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Lillian Karabaic
13 years ago

This is an awesome project by an awesome group of folks. I remember that Chris/Portland Transport has proposed a DIY setup using old TV screens awhile ago, but this is a step up.

Chris Smith
13 years ago

You could absolutely do bike routing this way (at least within the limits of an 8-inch touch screen). Anything you can get in a web browser can be displayed.

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

My former client, Vernier in Beaverton (right by the Millikan MAX station) had the MAX schedules running on an OLPC inside their employee door (next to their bike room). This kind of application fits well for something like Lab 126’s Amazon Kindle, where you’d use WiFi, WiMax, or a cellular network for the data download depending on what’s available and cost-effective at the time of need. (Or an iThingy from that big fruity conglomerate, or your Android smartphone, etc).

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

Put it into my Garmin Edge, then I’ll be stoked! 🙂

kyle
kyle
13 years ago

This is silly, I have a phone in my pocket that already does this.

Pat Franz
13 years ago

If I had a store or a restaurant, I’d have one in my window (hint, hint).

SteveG
SteveG
13 years ago

Cool!

This seems ideal for restaurants and coffee shops within 2-3 minutes of a NON-frequent service bus stop. Allows patrons to wait ’til the last minute before venturing out to catch the bus.

I use my iPhone for this, but lots of people don’t, and shiver in the cold.

Red Five
Red Five
13 years ago

Can I be cited for texting on my bike?

Spiffy
Spiffy
13 years ago

what’s the point? what’s this thing for? it does what a lot of existing things already do… I just don’t see the need… TriMet already has screens they put in at transit stops… everybody already has a cell phone they can get this information from…

a coffee shop type setting is the only thing I could see this being remotely useful for, and even then it’s too small to compare to a computer sized screen, so small as to get stolen if not bolted down…

really, it’s cool, but pointless with all the existing options…

cyc
cyc
13 years ago

#9 “…everybody already has a cell phone they can get this information from…”

Possible headline for this comment: Elite-Cyclists/Technophiles see no need for masses to have convenient access to Transit Information.

This is a great idea. Taking the bus gets more challenging as there are fewer routes and fewer runs. This gadget is a fine idea and the more there are the easier my commute will be.

Thanks Chris for remembering the shivering, huddled masses!

toddistic
toddistic
13 years ago

I’m with #9 on this one. whats the point?

Chris Smith
13 years ago

everybody already has a cell phone they can get this information from…

I love the phone apps. I was a judge for the CivicApps contest and gave high marks to Andy Wallace’s PDXBus app (which won the big award).

But…

Not everyone has a smart phone.

And perhaps more importantly there is a big difference between actively seeking this info and being able to pick it up passively (glancing at a wall or countertop display).

This is all about the passive model. Different strokes for different folks.

Jack
Jack
13 years ago

Damn. Thats some 1337 h4X0ring.

Someone better make sure this guy doesn’t hack the interwebs.

Jeff Owen
Jeff
13 years ago

This is great for businesses anywhere close to transit. For those of us without expensive smart phones, I think this is a wonderful idea. I’ve only seen something similar in Bridgeport Brewery, where they use a display by the door to let you know how soon the streetcar is coming. I would favor going to spend money and time at a business that helped me connect to transit and displayed usefull information such as this!

Nice job!

aaronf
aaronf
13 years ago

It would be handy in a bar O guess, for the poor people.

Red Five
Red Five
13 years ago

#15: What are poor people doing a bar spending money on booze when they should be looking for work?

resopmok
resopmok
13 years ago

Not sure what the built in functions allow, but it would be nice to keep in mind that often people need more than one bus/train to get where they are going. In some cases, the destinations might be served by more than one route. Adding an option that allows you to map out the most efficient layover patterns based on available real time data and traffic would be nice. Then not only can you leave the coffee shop at the last minute, maybe you won’t be standing in the rain for as long at your next layover and arrive quickly to your final stop.

The “appliance” seems like a pretty cost-effective tool, though I worry a bit about the durability and weatherproofing of modern touch screen devices. Recommended locations for installation: Pioneer Square, all library branches, city hall and just about any other public building. Indoor malls, shopping centers and big boxes all over the metro area could benefit as well.

And please, the poor have enough problems, they don’t need your hate too. If the internet rules your life so much you that have to carry it around in your pocket, maybe you should reconsider your relationship with it. This device is about public transit, not whether your fancy-pants phone already does that.

rekon
13 years ago

Funny comments on here, but in all seriousness some of us simply choose to not own a cell phone. As such, a device like this serving the public is a wonderful idea. It isn’t always about finances, sometimes it is about a lifestyle choice.

Sheesh, you’d think the folks here on bike portland would get that, seeing how so many of us claim to have made the lifestyle choice to not own a car, but yet are the first to cry foul when someone belittles our transportation choices.

aaronf
aaronf
13 years ago

resopmok, who should pay for the screens in the libraries, etc? Will that come out of the library budget or out of the general fund, or what?

Also, by the time I have reached a big box store by bus, I should hope I already am familiar enough with the schedule to find my way home. Am I exceptional?

Spiffy
Spiffy
13 years ago

ok, so the main use people are commenting on is people out in public that are unfamiliar with our transit system and need to go somewhere not served by the line outside the business that has this device available for use…

ok, I see how that could be useful… then you don’t have to interact with any actual people beyond the point of finding the device…

lock it to the counter for all to enjoy… limited market of businesses looking to spend money helping newcomers find their way…

so far asking other people standing at the bus/train stops has worked for me…

Chris Smith
13 years ago

Spiffy, is this not equally useful to folks who may not have a smartphone (or may not want to hassle with it) who know perfectly well where the bus goes but want to know WHEN it’s coming?

resopmok
resopmok
13 years ago

#19 and #20, I think you missed the point of the invention. The idea is to let people know _when_ transit is coming, not where or if. This way you can budget your time more efficiently in order to board that bus or train nearly on-time, instead of wasting it waiting around twiddling your thumbs at the bus stop. And, believe it or not, this becomes even more crucial in areas on the outskirts of town (like where big box stores are) where service is less frequent, in some cases only on the half hour. Miss that bus and you wait another half hour (or more). How frustrating is that?

aaronf
aaronf
13 years ago

resopmok, I didn’t miss the point of the invention. I agree that it would be convenient.

I would be surprised if there was a private market demand, but I’m no authority. If helping out out of towners was so attractive to businesses it seems like they would already have bus schedules available. Do any of the really awesome coffee shops downtown have maps of the transit mall hanging up?

I would (mildly) object to spending public money on touch screens, as you suggested. (Unless you were proposing that someone else buy them for the library) I want my tax money to go towards something more important than convenience, which is all this really provides. It’s convenient to not have to check a schedule and show up 5 minutes early, just in case.