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SMARTmuni (System Management Administered in Real Time) is an iPad-based software application designed to improve the day-to-day operations of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. As it stands now, MUNI riders have better access to real-time transit information (NextBus data) than the agency’s field staff, who are forced to rely on clipboards, pencils, paper schedules, and an inadequate radio system to track and manage their fleet. SMARTmuni gives line management staff new access to the agency’s NextBus data stream, and empowers them to work collaboratively to improve the efficiency of the MUNI system.

In the summer 2011, a diverse team of frequent MUNI riders responded to this problem by developing SMARTmuni during Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ “Summer of Smart” public policy hackathon. As one of the winning projects, the SMARTmuni team was awarded a residency at GAFFTA, ongoing mentorship and resources, and the opportunity to present to the Mayoral Debate at the Commonwealth Club in October of that year.

For over a year, the SMARTmuni team continued to meet and eventually invested several hundreds of volunteer hours into the project. In January 2012, the SMARTmuni team gave a demo of their project to senior management at the SFMTA. At that meeting Ed Reiskin, San Francisco’s Director of Transportation, was “blown away” by the project and asked his staff to work with the team to implement SMARTmuni as soon as possible. He recognized the potential value of the project to their organization and to the city, and recommended pursuing a privately-funded pilot program.

In August 2012, the San Francisco Citizens’ Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi), gave the SMARTmuni team a $100,000 grant to conduct a four-month pilot project in collaboration with the SFMTA. At least one-quarter of the SFMTA’s line management staff in the field, about half of those in the agency’s control centers, and a handful of maintenance and repair staff are expected to participate. The pilot project is scheduled to wrap up around the end of 2012.

SMARTmuni runs on the iPad, using public data from the NextBus API to display route, stop, and real-time vehicle location information. Line managers and control room staff can open and comment on “trouble tickets” for particular vehicles, transit lines, or stations/stops. The iPads sync to a simple SQL database via a standard RESTful XML API, so comments and issues posted on one iPad are replicated to all others within seconds.

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