Bus Enthusiast Makes His Own Open Source MTA Countdown Timer

July 25, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

When the MTA launched its geo-locating bus tracker, the API was made public, encouraging developers to build useful apps. Inspired by the countdown timers in subway stations (which make people really happy), Brooklyn programmer and public transit enthusiast Ian Westcott decided to get one in his home. Using the open source data, Westcott designed a wifi-enabled LED display that counts down the minutes until a New York bus arrives.

Westcott told the Village Voice why he passed on the MTA’s Bus Timer app and made his own timer:

“The web page shows the data in a way that’s easy for you to use,” Westcott says, but not so easy for a computer to work with. The MTA’s API strips out all of human-friendly bells and whistles, and leaves you with just a stream of data.

And besides, Westcott was looking for something a little more organic. Like a wall clock, he wanted to be able to glance up and get the information he wanted, without logging on to his computer.

The project ended up costing only $140, and he’s put up a step-by-step guide for fabricating one yourself. A rare New Yorker who genuinely loves the bus, Westcott is thrilled with the results of his work. “I’m definitely taking the bus more often than I used to,” he said. (Photo: Ian Westcott)