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May 4, 2013

Reinvent Transit, a Recap

Reinvent Transit was a gathering and hackathon that brought together technologists, makers, and creative problem solvers to better all forms of transportation in Baltimore. It took place over 48 hours between Friday April 5th and Sunday April 7th at our campus Betamore in Federal Hill. Here is a summary of the seven projects that were developed over the weekend, as well as links to media coverage and more.

Circulator Traffic Visualization: A team of software engineers with a background in urban planning created a visualization of Charm City Circulator routes and traffic patterns over a specific period of time.
MRLN:With participants from both the tech and transit communities, this team created a redesign of Baltimore’s local and regional transportation systems under one brand, emphasizing connection points and synergy between the individual systems.
Automated Passenger Count: A team of undergraduate developers and hackers from University of Maryland College Park built a hardware bus passenger counter that could relay passenger counts in real time. A team of developers and designers built a website with information about how to get started riding a bike in Baltimore City, with useful information about where to purchase equipment and where to find safe and accessible bike lanes and sharrows.
On Your MARC:Started by a frustrated MARC train rider, this group created a prototype for an iOS application that would give users live updates if a designated train was running late. In contrast, the current system is not regularly updated, nor is it mobile-friendly.
Rate Your Ride +: These participants tackled an upgrade of the current Rate Your Ride system that crowdsources rider feedback via an app interface and allows for connections to foursquare. Full slide deck
MTA Twittertron: This group designed a website locates tweets of Baltimore transit users and performs sentiments analysis so that users and transit officials can find problems in the system. Get involved: backend (Java, MySQL) – front-end (Django, Javascript, Python) –


Recapping the Weekend


See the Storify documenting the event with a summary of tweets and photos, or check out even more photos (taken by co-organizer Elliott Plack) from the weekend here.


Press coverage: Technically Baltimore, a local news source covering technology and innovation in Baltimore, wrote an excellent summary of Reinvent Transit. What Weekly, another local news organization, did a piece as well. Finally, Ed Schmalzle, an attendee and a developer at The Back Forty, wrote a blog post about the six reasons why Reinvent Transit was great.


What’s Next?


Further discussion can be found on the ReinventTransit Facebook Group, a group open to anyone – we encourage all participants, sponsors, and attendees to join us on there to keep the conversation going!


The Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) is interested in setting up meetings with several of our teams in late May – we will be in touch with more details about this in the coming weeks.  We would also like to work with MTA or other transit providers to help implement some of the solutions that were developed during the event. We’d love to see what teams are doing to refine their projects post-event, too – please post in the Facebook group if you are continuing to work on your project or related efforts or if you want to connect with designers, developers, or investors who might want to get involved.


The weekend’s efforts at Reinvent Transit were great, but to create lasting and real change in the way that Baltimore’s transportation system serves its riders, participants can continue to be involved in a variety of ways. One quick and easy way is to provide input through surveys for public projects and plans. Listed below are links to surveys for three ongoing transportation planning efforts that could use your input:


The Baltimore City Department of Transportation is working to update the City’s 2006 Bicycle Master Plan and needs input from people biking in Baltimore and the factors that would make them more likely to ride. They are particularly interested in hearing from people who may not frequently ride but might do so more if the conditions were different.


The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is launching an update of the 20-year Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Please visit the project webpage and complete the bicycle and pedestrian needs survey. The survey is design to help MDOT better understand how people currently use bicycle and pedestrian facilities and what types of improvements are most important.


MDOT is also developing the 2035 Maryland Transportation Plan (MTP), a 20-year vision for transportation in Maryland. Please visit their website to complete a survey and learn more about the MTP effort.


Technologists and transit users alike can also get involved by joining one of the many existing advocacy organizations (Red Line Now PAC, Bikemore, Get Maryland Moving, Baltimore Streetcar Campaign, or others), providing input to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, or participating in the Maryland Transit Administration’s Citizens Advisory Committee.


Feedback and Farewell (For Now…)


We’d like to hear your thoughts about your experiences at Reinvent Transit – what worked, what didn’t, what you liked best, and what you would like to see changed in the future.  You can post your feedback to the Facebook group, DM us on Twitter (@ReinventTransit), or e-mail event co-organizer Cari Peri at

Thank you once again for participating, attending, and following along with Reinvent Transit.  It was great to work with everyone throughout the weekend and we’re all looking forward to seeing what’s next!


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