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Transportation data startup Transit Labs launches with four cities on board

D.C.-based Transit Labs has launched a pilot program to help public transportation officials better use and understand their data. Transit authorities in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, Birmingham, Alabama, and Miami-Dade County are already piloting the program. Other areas with highly developed transit systems, including the District, may not be far behind, according to Farhan Daredia, Transit Labs' communication director.

The program, called the Transportation Application Program (TAP),  integrates data that a transit system already collects, such as automated passenger counters, automated vehicle locators, next train arrival data and more, and integrates it with other information, such as census and GIS data, to give planners a better picture of their transit system.

"We create graphs, charts and maps of more than a hundred different performance metrics," Daredia says. He points to revenue, ridership, overtime hours, energy consumption and "where incidents are occurring" as just a few of the metrics available.

The program's built-in algorithms also show who the peer systems are for a given transit authority. A "peer system" is a city with similar modes of public transit and similar demographics. In other words, TAP shows who WMATA should be comparing itself to in terms of average trip length, operating expense per passenger mile and passenger trips per employee, among other factors. 

According to a benchmarking study Transit Labs recently completed about the District, WMATA should be comparing itself to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Miami-Dade Transit, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). For example, WMATA, the CTA, and MARTA all have average trip lengths of about 6 miles on rail, but WMATA's expenses average .$50 per passenger mile, where CTA and MARTA's expenses are closer to $.30 per mile.

Daredia says that TAP's data and reports can also help planners budget their funds or decide where a new stop would be most effective. On a national level, TAP can track which transit projects are the most capital efficient or are having the greatest economic impact. "We have the data to back up the decisions," he explains.

Transit Labs is self-funded and currently working out of 1776 with a team of nine. They are looking to fill four positions over the next two to three months: a project manager, a "media person," a transportation planner and a transportation analyst.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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