Kansas City’s streetcar gets credit for sparking hotels, residential renovations and new businesses along its 2.2-mile Main Street route. Now it’s also spawning digital developments.
The newly launched StreetcarKC app helps users find the nearest streetcar stop, including directions to get there.
An existing transit tracking app has added Kansas City’s streetcar to the list of lines it follows.
And a Kansas City man is building a real-time streetcar tracking map that he’ll display at Maker Faire Kansas City. The city’s sixth Maker Faire runs Saturday and Sunday at Union Station, which is the southernmost stop on the streetcar line. The event, held inside and outside, amounts to a giant show-and-tell by inventors and innovators from a dozen states.
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It runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for adults are $14 each day, or $22 for a weekend pass. Lower prices are available for youths, seniors and members of the military.
Last year’s event drew 17,000. The streetcar will help with parking by delivering passengers right to Maker Faire’s door.
“It’s part of the experience now,” said Michael Tritt, chief marketing officer for Maker Faire. “The return of the streetcar (to Kansas City) is a bit of a Maker project on steroids.”
One of the challenges for potential streetcar riders is spotting one of the three streetcars. Digital signs at streetcar stops report estimated arrival times, though that’s not much help to potential riders who would rather check from the comfort of nearby shops and restaurants — out of the weather — before heading to a nearby stop.
Finding that stop is easier with the StreetcarKC app, developed by Michael Gelphman and Kevin Montanez. Gelphman runs the Disruption Institute in Kansas City, from which Montanez recently graduated.
Their app, which is unaffiliated with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, is a basic 1.0 version, Gelphman said. It estimates how long it takes users to reach the nearest streetcar stop by walking, driving or taking other public transit. It also allows users to search what’s around the stops.
The developers have a vision for the app but said its future versions depend in large part on feedback they get from early users. At this point, it doesn’t help streetcar users know when the next streetcar is coming.
“That’s a future feature we’re working on for our next release,” Gelphman said. “The real-time stuff is a huge priority for us.”
Data to track the streetcars is available, though Gelphman and some who are using it said the data could be more timely and accurate.
Ryan Mott runs a website at www.itsab.us that originally showed where Kansas City Area Transit Authority buses were on their routes. He has added the streetcar with the available data.
Currently the streetcars transmit their locations twice a minute, Mott said. The data is collected by a site that checks twice a minute. Mott said this means readily available data can be off by up to a minute.
Mott said another place to see the data in use is the app Transit, which maps the Kansas City streetcar locations along their route. Transit will push notifications to a smartphone when a streetcar is approaching.
Mott’s project for Maker Faire uses the data to show the streetcars on a 6-foot-tall map of the route. Lights will track where each of the vehicles are.
Like Gelphman, Mott would like to see more timely data than is currently available. He is working on an idea to get better location data using a crowdsharing website that streetcar riders could tap into while on one of the vehicles.
Maker Faire Kansas City
The event at Union Station is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $14 for adults or a $22 weekend pass, with lower prices for youths, seniors and members of the military.