Unfortunately a day after the storm is not enough to bring Philadelphia out of its persisting transport woes. The winter storm that dropped a foot of snow on the Delaware Valley yesterday has left the city in the throes of bitter cold, and fine, powdery, blowing, drifting snow; both of those conditions are strongly counterindicated for mechanical objects of all sorts, and the dry powdery snow is a particular problem for electric motors, because it gets in them and then melts, shorting them out. SEPTA buses and Regional Rail have once again been running with the kind of delays that make schedules completely meaningless. Downed overhead wires brought a halt to 101 and 102 trolley service, and the 15 stacked up 7 trolleys deep on Girard Avenue after a derailment.
This is the sort of situation where, since schedules are useless even as approximations, better real-time tracking of transit vehicles becomes a killep app. If people can see that trolleys aren’t running, or that the next bus is still 20 minutes away, they can start walking to an alternate route, or at least get inside out of the bitter wind chill. SEPTA’s Transitview APIs aren’t quite good enough for really mission-critical applications, but they were cheap to develop in-house, and provide a very good base for future development.