DST, or Detroit Student Transit, is a cross platform application aimed at tackling Detroit’s public transportation system that has become a main reason for the severe disparity in Detroit’s public school attendance rates. With a clean UI and a step-by-step UX, we believe DST’s proof of concept could be instrumental in

  1. Clarifying much of the randomness and inconsistency associated with Detroit’s Bus System.
  2. Providing human feedback and data that will reshape existing busing schedules towards human convenience.

Inspiration

We were inspired by the Ford Go Detroit mission to build an app that helps provide access to safe, efficient, reliable transit for Detroit residents so they can get to their school, work, or other activities securely and on time. We were further inspired by statistics available about students of the Detroit education system who often cannot find reliable transit access to their schools, contributing to nationally low attendance averages and high rates of tardiness.

What it does

Detroit School Transit (DST) enables students to take control of their transit schedule. By turning on location tracking during their commute, a transit report is generated to vouch for students who waited at bus stops for late arrivals. DST further enables parents to track their children’s location side-by-side with real-time bus arrival and departure info. Parents can also track the commute and know when their children get to school safely. There is an additional web-based administrative platform to view student transit reports.

How we built it

DST is a cross platform service, spanning across both mobile and web.

We built the student platform as an iOS application. The whole app was designed in a very linear fashion. We used a combination of Swift and Objective C on the Xcode platform to create the front end of the mobile app. For data storage and retrieval, we set up Firebase for our backend. With regards to frameworks, we used Apple’s Core Location and Map Kit modules to track and display user location. The Sketch Image formatting tool was used to create most of the icons and design schematics in the iOS application.

On the web platform, we coded HTML/CSS/JS. We also linked the Firebase backend to the web front end, and we attempted to sync the data retrieved from mobile users to be displayed on the web page. This is still a work in progress. Additionally, we used Python to parse the provided Detroit bus data which we stored in the form of JSON files.

Challenges we ran into

The data and APIs available about the Detroit transportation system is limited and often incomplete/inaccurate, which made these given resources not completely adequate and reflected a much larger problem of data collection for Detroit transportation.

This was the first time we coded in Firebase, so being able to understand and then use the service for this the hackathon was definitely an interesting learning curve and a feature that we're proud of. Another obstacle was data parsing. Much of the data we collected came in different forms, from Strings to Time/Dates to Coordinate Locations, so it took a good effort to cast and consolidate a wide range of data into an interpretable form, all the while making sure the meaning of the original data was not compromised with conversion.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of creating a social-impact-driven product that considers the needs of Detroit citizens and the growth of the city overall. We were also happy with the ability to create a cross platform service that, to the best of our abilities, addresses the overall theme of this hackathon.

What we learned

More than anything, we began to delve into the deeper history of Detroit and some of the institutional problems that the local government and citizens have faced in the reconstruction of the city. We often researched beyond the scope of the inherent functionality of our product, but this new knowledge reinforced our drive to contribute. From a technical standpoint, the ability to work with a backend, specifically Firebase, was not something that any of us had experience with. Consequently, learning how to handle such a database while utilizing its data model design tools along with its cross platform features was very exciting.

What's next for Detroit Student Transit

We have a large scope of new features and capabilities we hope to add to DST, including, but not limited to, fully building out a 'Parent' iOS platform with notifications of safe student arrival, increased connection and stop transfer capability, 'Favorite Routes' for frequent users, PDF report generation from mobile, and a live tracking map.

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