Steel wheels

I've been trying to limit myself to writing about just one thing I learned per day, but I can't do that today. I refuse. One of the highlights of my day was the project demos from this year's transportation hackathon. (This one is particularly cool to look at - it's a visualization of SEPTA transit.)

But then, I got a very special SEPTA control center tour. It looks very much like what NASA looks like in any 90s action movie. I loved it.

Here are a few things I learned there:

  • The only time that a SEPTA bus is allowed to drive past people waiting at a bus stop is when it is completely full.
  • This is called a "pass-by".
  • In the case of a pass-by, the bus driver must report how many passengers it passed by. This data is used to plan bus routes.
  • This data is not, however, used to dispatch additional buses to pick up those passengers. This is because SEPTA has about 1100 out of a total 1200 buses running at any given time, and they need those extra 100 in case of mechanical failures, etc.
  • In-the-know SEPTA people refer to the non-bus transit as "steel wheels", which is a really snazzy term.
  • SEPTA is PECO's biggest customer. (PECO is our local electric company.)

I understand what transit nerds get so excited about now.

Project demo! The first and my favorite.  Above you'll see Ben Novack, Kara Lindstrom, and Mjumbe Poe.

Project demo! The first and my favorite.  Above you'll see Ben Novack, Kara Lindstrom, and Mjumbe Poe.