The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Capital Bikeshare will open up more data for apps

Capital Bikeshare has agreed to publicly release more data on trip patterns, similar to data that London already releases. This will let software developers build many useful or just visually stunning applications, maps and videos about CaBi usage.

Since its launch, Capital Bikeshare has offered an XML feed of station locations and the numbers of bikes and empty docks at each. Many other bike sharing systems do the same. Thanks to this, applications like CaBi Tracker have created appealing user interfaces for riders. Mobile apps like SpotCycle show users the nearest stations while they're on the road. And developers have created visualizations of bike usage over time for the Washington area and many others.

London visualization by Ollie O'Brien.

But there's a lot people can't do with just this data. They can't generate maps like this one or animations like this one showing where people travel to and from, or analyze the daily patterns of travel, since the simple list of station occupancy doesn't say where a bike that leaves one station travels to.

A group of developers, including the author of CaBi Tracker and folks from the Mobility Lab's Transit Tech Initiative (for which I am working part-time as product manager), recently spoke with Capital Bikeshare officials about releasing more data. They agreed, and yesterday announced that starting around the new year, CaBi will release more detailed data files.

The data will break down CaBi usage by individual trips, listing when and where each trip starts and ends. It'll also identify which bike the trip used, enabling visualizations like this one showing the path of an individual bike throughout a day or week.

Image from The Data Studio.

The files won't reveal any personal information about which customer used it or who the customer is. It won't let anyone piece together an individual customer's usage over time. The only member information will be which trips come from "members" (monthly or yearly) versus "casual customers" (daily or 3-day). That will help anyone doing an analysis compare the locations and types of trips taken by regular users versus occasional ones such as tourists.

The wealth of applications that people have already built around CaBi shows how much interest there is from the public in building useful or just cool tools for this popular program. Thankfully, the CaBi leaders appreciate this and have taken a step to empower even more.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

This is terrific to hear. Looking forward to doing some awesome visualizations with this.

by Andrew on Nov 10, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

Exciting news! Glad to hear it and I look forward to all sorts of fun tools (read: toys) and videos!

by Bossi on Nov 10, 2011 10:51 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the mention!

Hopefully with trip data, we could understand more about the system. Take today for instance:

In the image above, taken from cabitracker's status page (, you can see the approximate number of bikes in use is on par with that of last Friday, but station outages (full/empty) is way down, probably because today is a federal holiday. And with trip data, we will be able to see where these rides are happening and why they are causing fewer outages versus typical work-days.

by Daniel Gohlke on Nov 11, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

this would be an awesome visualization to see for DC

by wr on Nov 11, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

Once this goes in place, I can imaging a great organizational performance art with CaBi Dots. A Flashmob writing it's name in the sky or something like that. Very Cool.

by Mike Essig on Nov 11, 2011 11:14 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us