Santa Monica Brings Civic Hacking Home with Big Blue Bus Realtime Data


Hack the Beach

The city of Santa Monica and the Chamber of Commerce are hosting a “Hack the Beach” meetup this Saturday, where the city will formally open up new datasets to the public, including real-time bus arrival information.

Saturday’s event, at the Main Branch Library, is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, an opportunity to bring together “urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better… [to] collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them,” according to the National Day of Civic Hacking website.

Santa Monica hopes to do just that with Hack the Beach, one of hopefully many future events geared toward tapping the ingenuity and entrepreneurial talents in Silicon Beach to make government better for all.

“You are invited to join us as we make available new real-time data for Big Blue Bus scheduling (GTFS-rt), real-time on-street and lot parking, Fire Department Calls for Service, and citywide water usage data,” according to the Hack the Beach website.

“During the meetup, you will be provided with the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the City’s open data program, including providing input to help shape future events,” the website reads.

Perhaps the most exciting news about this event is that the city will officially open up the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) for displaying real-time arrival information. At Saturday’s event, city officials will explain how to incorporate the real-time information into third-party apps. Big Blue Bus officials have projected that GTFS-rt info should be available on apps like NextBus by the end of this summer.

“This track will be a deep dive into transit-oriented data, allowing you to interact and ask questions to those most familiar with the data,” according to the website.

There will be other new datasets available, too, including real-time parking information that has “historically been locked behind proprietary systems and Non-Disclosure Agreements,” according to the Hack the Beach site.

“This session will be hands-on; bring your laptop and get ready to learn how to use the API, then get creative and build lightweight apps which explore and/or visualize the data,” according to the site.

The schedule for Saturday’s event, which starts at 10 a.m., is available on the website. The event is co-sponsored by the city of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

“Both agencies view open data as a core public service for citizen engagement and government transparency, as well as a potential business driver for local businesses,” according to city officials. “The City and Chamber are pleased to offer local residents and businesses an opportunity to come together to learn more, as well as contribute to Santa Monica’s efforts to increase economic vitality, transparency, and citizen engagement.”

To RSVP for Saturday’s event, visit

Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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