“Live” Map of Pittsburgh Bus Service

This is a really great map of the Pittsburgh-Area with a data overlay. It shows the live location of all GPS-enabled Port Authority Transit (PAT) Buses. It is mostly “live”; there is maybe a 10-30 second delay.

In the screenshot above (from a mid-morning weekday), it is neat to see the clustering effect of all the buses – I expected a city-wide transit service to be fairly even in its spread across the city. But that is not the case. You can see how buses aggregate along the routes. I tracked four “75” buses (not shown in my screenshot); two were in Aspinwall/WaterWorks area and two were on Fifth Ave in Oakland, each pair about a block apart.

If these four buses were evenly distributed across their route, riders would have relatively quick access to one of those four whenever they came out to a stop. However, with the four clustered in two pairs, entire regions of the route are underserved for long stretches. How could we solve this?

This website is described as a “small weekend hack” by creator “Alpire” (from Reddit – where else?). The Reddit thread on this project also links to some resources, including why there is a slight lag and also another hack up of the bus map by Reddit user Emgram769.

Emgram769’s map (below) allows users to select (albeit from a small pool of buses) which specific bus(es) they are interested in tracking. While this does not give you the “big data” view that Alpire’s map gives, it is a really nice way to just get the information you need about a particular bus. Also, it shows the direction that the bus(es) is/are traveling.

emgram769 Map

Note that on Emgram769’s screenshot (taken in the early afternoon), the 75 buses are more evenly spread along their route. This is great. I wonder if the clustering I noticed on Alpire’s screenshot was an effect of the early morning rush?

The Port Authority does have a map of their own. It works great and seems very useful. It is great that the data has been made available for use by local folks who can hack together their own “weekend projects”, and put out on the web. It forces PAT to be flexible and responsive, and also can give them great ideas for their own resource.


Quitting Football is “a thing”

In the week before the 2014 NFL season kicked off, I noticed three different blogs of fairly high profile folks who state that they are quitting the NFL.

Quitting football?!?

Why, yes. And guess what? Most of it is not even because of the Ray Rice debacle.

Jason Kotte is quitting the NFL.

Steve Almond is quitting football.

And even Pittsburgh’s own Virginia Montanez is breaking up with America’s game.

I admit, after doing a little reading, it might be easy to climb onboard and declare that, in light of the arguments made by those above, yes, I too, am quitting football. Comments like, “it is immoral to watch a sport that causes brain damage” (Almond) are fairly difficult to argue against. But something less atomic, such as, “I’m tired of having to explain to my kid what NFL player was arrested on any particular week and how it might affect his fantasy team” (Montanez) still raises the cackles of anyone who has been unexpectedly forced to explain to a child the world’s moral “gray” ground.

Cool. I’m game.

But what was I doing last Thursday? I was watching the Steelers-Ravens game on TV. Sure, I missed most of it (because: kids). But I had it on; I wanted to watch; I intended to be a witness to the smash-mouth spectacle presented by our modern day gladiators.

The Steelers lost. They were not just beaten, but tarred and feathered by the Ravens. The Black & Gold’s defense had more holes in it than Penn Ave. And you know, that might be the single thing, the one thing that helps me to quit the NFL. Not the abusive culture towards women that pops up every season; not the “slave-auction feel” to the NFL Combine (minute 9:24 in the audio); not the basic raping of local municipalities of land and tax revenue that the non-profit NFL garners when it plunders low income communities for shiny new tax-payer-purchased stadiums. I might quit the NFL simply because the team I like stinks. At least this season.

If that isn’t a good old fashioned brain washing, I don’t know what is. I think, America, we’ve been suckered. We should snap out of it.

2012 CBI Tournament: Pitt Prevails Against Butler; Heads To Finals – SB Nation Pittsburgh

2012 CBI Tournament: Pitt Prevails Against Butler; Heads To Finals – SB Nation Pittsburgh.

I want to care, but it is difficult to get really fired up about our chances of winning a tournament that would cement us in the top 130 teams of college basketball. Not the top 64 – those go to the teams invited to the NCAA Tournament. Not the next 64 – those folks went to the NIT Tournament. I guess we are talking #129 or 130, depending on whether or not we pull it out in the best of 3 series against Washington State.

Kind of hard to talk smack about this, isn’t it?

Even so, I am considering buying a couple of $20 tickets and going to game 2, hosted at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh this Wednesday.  When else can I say I saw the Panthers fight it out for a championship for only $20?  The way I see it, it is a golden opportunity.

This is a long way off from just a year ago, when Pitt basketball tickets were unreachable and Pitt stood at a pinnacle – going into the NCAA tournament with a #1 ranking!  These are many of the same players, for pete’s sake!  Also, just last year this same #1-ranked team was beaten in the NCAA tournament by … Butler!  Butler is the team that Pitt just beat in this year’s CBI tourney to advance to the finals.  Revenge?  I’d rather not, and instead have beaten Butler last year, like we were supposed to.

As the Burgh Turns

The Civic Arena is looking more like a post-apocolyptic film set than a playoff hockey rink. It’s it hard to believe that I once saw a dog show inside that crater. In younger days, I played a frantically screaming extra in the movie Sudden Death for a scene inside that dome. Don’t look fir me in the background. Even though I’ve never seen the only movie I’ve ever been in, I am pretty sure you won’t be able to see me.  I was one of a few hundred extras and our job was to run away from an exploding score board.  Where are you gonna be looking?

When we weren’t running from explosions, we all huddled in the hallway where the studio provided us with doughnuts.  You would have thought we had never seen such delightful treats before.  I remember people grabbing four, five, SIX whole boxes cradled in their arms and walking away laughing about how they got their free doughnuts.  Of course, these were donuts meant to feed all 700 of us, and yes, you got 70 of them. Greaaaaaaaaat. Good luck with the diabetes.

And so the Burg turns.

Pittsburgh is the new Portland?

Pittsburgh is the new Portland. That is the news out of the Washington Post this week.  It is pretty exciting to make it onto the “in” list of what’s cool.  It appears, though, that Pittsburghers are taking the acclaim in stride.

One of the things that make it a cool place to live is that the people living here in the burg’ don’t really care much about being cool. We just want to have fun, enjoy the arts & music, and keep our tax assessments low. It doesn’t seem that the added hype is going to change things.

We’ve already made a bunch of great lists and still, we act as though we’d only just won another superbowl.  Sure, I am being smug. But only to make a point: Hipsters and other trend-setters probably don’t care about NFL football because it is so mainstream. So here is a city whose proudest moments are summarized with the phrase “More Lombardi Trophies than you.  How can we be cool?  This is a town that still shuts down for the first day of deer hunting season (killing is out of style but, butchering has made a comeback).  Football and hunting have not been urban-scene hip since the days when George Washington slept here (which is weird because football wasn’t even invented back then).

Pittsburgh is cool because Pittsburghers don’t judge others.  We complain and gripe, but we don’t  judge.

I am glad Pittsburgh has made the “in” list for 2012. It is pretty exciting.  But when it is freezing outside and you are snug as a stinkbug in the house, sauce is cooking on the stove and venison is curing in the basement, it just doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  Pittsburghers have our list of what’s important, and everyone else has theirs.