“With Google Transit, travelers unaware of the convenience of public transportation can do research and choose for themselves,” MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas said in a written statement issued today.What Grabauskas may not know is, one of the engineers on the Google Transit project prefigured the T’s foray into GIS in 2005, with an unauthorized mashup of transit schedules with maps of the Boston area. Joe Hughes developed the tool while living in Boston in 2005, and published it to his blog, retrovirus.com. His application scraped the MBTA’s online schedules and route maps, allowing any Internet user to query nearby MBTA routes and schedules by location. Before moving to Boston in 2002, he’d set up a similar system in Pittsburgh, where he attended Carnegie-Mellon University. In 2005, not long after he built the MBTA hack, he moved to Mountain View, Calif., to take an engineering job at Google’s headquarters there.“Most of us on this project are transit geeks at heart,” said Hughes. “I’d like to see public transit information as essential a part of any map you might see as any other mode of transportation.”
A blogger compatriot once wondered aloud if Rust Belt refugees were more attracted to urban planning than other people from outside of the region. Perhaps this is true. And maybe the Pittsburgh connected are more likely to end up as part of the Transit Geek Diaspora.