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Brian Ferris doesn't drive. He lives in one of the rainier cities on the West Coast and uses public transportation to get around. And he's not the only one.

A grad student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Ferris saw the need for better public transit information. So in his spare time, he wrote code that's now used for OneBusAway -- an open source application that aggregates bus data in real time, allowing users to view whether their ride is on time, early or late.

"Now you know: 'Am I going to be here five minutes, 30 minutes, or do I go do something else?'" the OneBusAway creator said. And especially with weather being such a factor in people's daily lives, knowing when the bus will arrive is a huge asset, Ferris said.

King County IT officials hope others will emulate Ferris' efforts in the coming months as they plan to make hundreds of data sets available that can be made into useful apps. "We're looking to make raw data available to citizens and innovators in the area so they can develop apps that frankly, we don't have the money to develop ourselves," said King County Deputy Director of IT Enterprise Business Solutions Trever Esko.

Esko is spearheading the county's open data initiative, which will include a website that displays its open data sets. Once available in raw form, people can play with the information as they please, and some already have app ideas, Esko said.

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Karen Wilkinson  | 

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.