This article is a guest post by Alan Williams of Civic Center and Neighborland & Rachel Heiligman of Transport for NOLA.

We all know we should drive less–it’s expensive, it creates pollution, and frankly it can be dangerous. But public transportation in New Orleans is not a realistic alternative for most people. One of the biggest problems with buses and streetcars is the uncertainty.  There is just no way to be sure that waiting on the side of the road for a bus is going to work like it should.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. The RTA and Veolia maintain real-time location data for their entire fleet. The RTA should follow the lead of agencies around the USA and release this data to the public. When the data is made public,  local businesses and software developers will create a galaxy of different applications to help people know exactly when the next bus will arrive.

That’s why teamed up with Transport for NOLA to petition the RTA board, and why over 275 people have signed the petition to date. To make our voices heard unmistakably, people should attend the RTA Board of Commissioners meeting this Tuesday, January 24th at 9am and support the cause in person.

Neither Veolia or the RTA are experts in creating consumer software applications. If they maintain a monopoly on the data, bus and streetcar dependent New Orleanians will likely be stuck with a second-rate bus-tracking application. Others will continue to prefer their cars to public transportation.

The RTA board should commit to making the data public as soon as possible, and openly encourage developers build applications around the data.  Some applications will be better than others.  Some will combine the transit data with other data sets to make it more valuable and relevant.  Some will have beautiful, intuitive interfaces, and others will not.  Consumers will flock to whichever application delivers useful information in the easiest, most cost-effective manner.

Help make a strong impression at this Tuesday’s board meeting by joining Neighborland, Transport for NOLA, and the developer community at 2817 Canal Street beginning at 9am.  Releasing the data will be a boon to bus and streetcar riders, local business, and the thousands of people who drive every day when they might rather not.

Alan Williams is a member of Civic Center and Community Manager for Neighborland and Rachel Heiligman is the Executive Director of Transport for NOLA.