Help needed: FOSS for public transportation systems

Do you know of free and open source software (FOSS) for managing public transit (public transportation) systems? Especially small, bus-based systems. Perhaps I don’t know the lingo well enough, but all I can find are expensive, proprietary systems. You would think there was a need.

As in earlier requests, pointers to good association or government sites, or thoughtful blogs, are also welcome.

Greyhound steps up

“The Dog” has a bad reputation of being the intercity tranportation mode of last resort. That’s a shame. Many countries enjoy inexpensive, efficient (if not fancy) bus transportation. And that’s an efficient use of depleting petroleum.

And oil jumped above $120 a barrel on Friday.

But Greyhound’s service stinks. Hubby was shocked that you didn’t get a reserved seat, as I discovered when I took a bus — no, was prevented from taking a bus — on a three-leg, 15-hour bus ride to my paternal grandmother’s funeral last year.

But I got an email yesterday inviting me to join Greyhound’s “road rewards” program, and I did. (But it makes more sense to register just before taking a bus trip, as rewards expire.) That, $5 reserved seats from some markets (including Washington) and a much more usable website makes me think someone is paying attention.

Atlanta people! Freedom from the car!

Few friends come as good as K. (for Katharine, who’s identified herself with her blog, so I’m glad to do the same) who writes at pointedview. So I think she’ll forgive me for cribbing her whole post, addressed to metro Atlanta residents. But leave her the comments; it’s how you show the love.

Metro Atlanta residents: If you’re interested in providing input on proposed rail and bus improvements, visit They are also conducting public meetings. By the way, the questionnaire could stand some improvement in the design department, but I suppose it’s at least a means of getting feedback.

God knows the Big Peach needs better alternatives to private automobiles. I was thinking about car alternatives for the South today, but more about coaches and trains between cities than within a particular city. I saw a map (via Andrew Sullivan’s blog, via Wired) about carbon dioxide emissions keyed to United States locations. The data comes from the Department of Energy and NASA-funded Vulcan Project.

You can look at the high-CO2 big red dots on the Vulcan Project map, shown at Wired. Indeed, do so. No wonders, because the red dots match population centers. Now look at the service maps at Megabus. It’s practically a plan for new service corridors: Seattle-Portland, Tulsa-OKC-DFW (perhaps Little Rock), Houston-New Orleans, Jacksonville-Miami/Tampa-Orlando. But there’s lots of opportunity in the Southeast.

Huntsville-Birmingham-Atlanta. Atlanta-Greenville/Spartanburg. GSP-Columbia-Charleston. GSP-Charlotte-Greensboro (Triad)-Raleigh (Triangle).

Rail would be better but given the poor level of service by intercity bus, I’d start there — if I was the King of Transportation — and build ridership. Connections to larger en route towns, colleges and airports would be ideal.

Of course, you can leave a comment about that here.

Megabus enters northeastern corridor

Back in 2006, I first wrote about the UK-based Megabus entering the US market, and giving riders an option between the hard-worn Greyhound and the under-regulated (“is that antifreeze?”) “Chinatown” buses. (Link, to give you an idea of schedules and fares.) They’ve since moved to locations in California and Nevada, and have now announced a New York hub with service as far a-field as Washington, Boston and Toronto. Could the bus be getting sexy? Or at least a viable option for those with choices? Intercity bus ridership is up, even on “the Dog”, and a fuel crisis and recession will probably encourage this trend.

To show it isn’t a fluke, Bolt Bus, a cousin of Greyhound (both are owned by UK-based FirstGroup; does that make them “Scotstown buses”?) has begun selling tickets between Washington and New York, and plans service between New York and Boston. Not to be forgotten, I’ve known people to ride and like the “post-Chinatown” carriers like DC2NY.

Wifi, refreshments and reserved seats are some of the amenities you might get in this new generation of intercity bus, rather than sketchy ticketing and questions about what’s being carried in that first luggage bay. But this advance seems to bring variable pricing, too (not on DC2NY) meaning those $1 come-on fares really mean the worst of airline pricing has come to ground transport.

Lastly, what about the South? Surely there’s an opportunity in the Triangle-Charlotte-Atlanta corridor?