We’re big fans of Code For America here, fellows in cities across America are focused on improving their host cities through technology. Specifically, coding solutions that help governments engage with their citizens, and help citizens get the most out of their city.
Make sure not to miss the TwilioCon panel featuring Code For America Fellows from Austin, Philadelphia and Detroit: Digital Democracy – Engaging Citizens One SMS at a Time. Read more about what the fellows were doing in Detroit below.
Code for America fellows Alicia Rouault, Matt Hampel and Prashant Singh asked the question “What can short codes do for Detroit?” Answer: a lot.
Detroit is known for powering the transportation industry and has a public transport system like any progressive city. But, some Detroit residents who were dependent on Detroit’s Bus System frequently waited hours for their bus, or waited hours for a bus that never came.
Code For America fellows Alicia Rouault, Matt Hampel and Prashant Singh approached this problem like any hacker would – and fixed the problem themselves.
In working with the Detroit Department of Transportation, Detroit community groups, and fellow Detroit coders, the Code for America team launched Text My Bus. Text My Bus is as simple as its name and works on any phone with SMS messaging. If you want to find out when your next bus is coming, text your cross streets to a Twilio-powered short code and get a text back with the different bus lines in your area, and their arrival times.
The app opened doors for Detroit students and developers alike. Text My Bus launched a week before Detroit Public Schools welcomed back students, many of whom were completely reliant on DDOT. The app saved them from waiting outside for a bus for hours on end, sometimes in unfamiliar or dangerous neighborhoods. For developers, they now have access to DDOT’s General Transit Field Specification Data and can code apps on top of the One Bus Away interface.
Alicia, Matt and Prashant are hoping that local Detroit coders will keep building apps, using the live data they’ve made public with the help of the mayor’s office. They’re moving on to other hackable civic challenges in Detroit like increasing access to city property records and promoting community engagement.