Transit agencies should publish data in an open format. What does this mean?
Live Vehicle Location Data - Bus location and live arrival/departure information is available via an
API made available by the University of Washington's Intelligent
Transportation Systems program:
...however, it looks like it is not possible to easily gather this data en masse, i.e., for assembling route on-time performance metrics.
Ridership data - how many riders are on each bus? I notice that some buses have 'APC' stickers on the door, which I'm guessing indicate Automatic Passenger Counters. Perhaps Metro gathers this on a sampling basis by rotating APC-equipped buses between runs? How can we gain access to this data? Is this data recorded with GPS coordinates to identify the ridership at particular route segments?
Revenue/Cost data - by examining revenue/cost data with the metrics listed above, we may be able to draw conclusions on what makes a route more or less costly to operate.
Quality-of-Ride data - I don't think Metro collects anything like this today. But I'd like to see accelerometers installed on buses to measure the ride quality, be it due to poor road quality, brake/gas-happy drivers, or bad traffic conditions. Hook it to a GPS to track where the ride quality could be improved the most. Hook it up to a camera at the front of the bus to take pictures of vehicles which stop abruptly in front of buses and send warning letters. Sync it with the bus driver roster to provide constructive feedback to drivers with annoying brake/gas tendencies. Here's someone who took a rudamentary shot at this with the Accelerometer on their MacBook:
...I know that there are supposedly professional "transit planners" looking over this data, but I don't trust 'em. :o) Seriously though, there are many intelligent bus riders that would welcome the opportunity to comb thru this data, writing scripts to analyze the data, and use that data to create proposals on how our limited transit resources could be more effectively deployed.