Metro Hack Night with Transportation Techies : Controlling your city’s destiny through data

Metro Hack Night IV at WMATA HQ Washington DC USA 03119
Metro Hack Night IV at WMATA HQ Washington DC USA 03119 (View on Flickr.com)

One of the other unnatural fascinations I have, as someone with Total Health in their job title, is the transformation of the transportation industry globally, from one designed to move heavy vehicles to one designed to promote health and well being.

There are 11 million people in the US working in transportation, 16 million in health care, 0.4 million in public transportation. There’s something there for all of us to think about (see: Transportation, Health, Food Systems : A Tour of the Future and comparing the stats)

And so, Transportation Techies (@TechiesDC) MetroHackNight IV, held at Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Headquarters (@WMATA) is a sure bet to see the future.

Bravo DCTechies! Normally it's #whymetrowesnesday but not today 😀 #activetransportation
Bravo @TechiesDC! Normally it’s #whymetrowesnesday but not today 😀 #activetransportation (View on Flickr.com)

Who would have thought, 50 years ago, when this system was conceived, that there would be a bunch of people in a room dissecting its Application Programming Interface so that they, on their spare time, could write software to empower and enable the citizens to know when and where each train is, down to the microsecond?

I read a really excellent book (which I’ll post on separately soon), “The Great Society Subway” in which it was described how the first iteration of the Washington Metro didn’t even have station names on the walls, to promote a unified aesthetic.

What the book revealed to me, by the way, is that all of the emotion and challenges around a transit system of this size were born 50 years ago, and they really haven’t changed.

It’s what happens when you take an innovation and turn it into a public works edifice. It’s a microcosm of the city. What was happening in the room was a proxy of citizens working to control their own destiny, including their health destiny. Open data is just the lever. And it’s a fine one in 2016, in my opinion.

The whole thing was delightful to watch. These events are among the most creative I have found in Washington, DC. I end up learning everything from how people plan to communities to fine tuning my javascript every time I go, thanks to our uber host with the most, Michael Schade (@mvs202).

Having it all unfold in the iconic WMATA headquarters, tucked between the Verizon Center and the National Building Museum was just icing.

This century is amazing.

Look What I Made
Look What I Made (View on Flickr.com)

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