(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

Most people have websites they visit to waste time at work. My new obsession is all about saving it: RideDC. The week-old tool from the District’s Department of Transportation lets folks input their address and create a dashboard showing real-time info on nearby buses, trains, Capital Bikeshare stations and car sharing. So, with a glance at my computer, I can determine which is the quickest way to go.

Or, I can just stare at my screen, mesmerized by the icon-studded map and sidebar of constantly updating numbers.

That’s a good way to determine what needs fixing, says DDOT chief information officer José Colón, who rolled out RideDC quickly to solicit feedback. For instance, the maps show buses moving along their routes. Sometimes. To improve Circulator data, DDOT has started installing smartphones with GPS on the vehicles.

Some folks — including me — complained because the display was limited to the closest Metro station. Now it toggles between two. Coming next week, Colón promises, is another requested change: Users will have the option of setting the max amount of time they’re willing to walk up to 12 minutes. (The current limit is six.)

The main quibble I heard from co-workers is that it’s not interactive. People like clicking stuff. But RideDC isn’t designed for your computer. It’s meant to be displayed on a monitor in the lobby of a building. (For personal use, DDOT will introduce a RideDC mobile trip planning app in January.) Colón envisions these screens popping up everywhere, casually reminding folks that bikes sit around the corner and convenient bus routes are a block away.

If that concept sounds familiar, maybe you’ve seen a TransitScreen. The local company launched its customized display business in 2012, and now has customers across the country. (Next stop: Hawaii!)

Although TransitScreen hasn’t been involved in the creation of RideDC, it’s working with Colón on its latest innovation. SmartWalk, which can beam info onto a sidewalk, may debut soon in front of DDOT headquarters. The idea is that anyone walking by can see it, and follow arrows that tell them exactly where to go to catch a ride.

“People were having difficulty connecting the data on screen to the environment,” says TransitScreen CEO Matt Caywood. Sounds like a sign of even better signs to come.

 

Read previous columns:

What to buy your car-free friends for the holidays

Can a dog be a cyclist’s best friend?

RightRides DC offers trips that are free — and free of harassment