Could open source software save New York City’s bike share program?

A bike share program that was supposed to be launched last summer in New York City has come to a halt due to software related issues. I can’t help but think that if the software was open source, these problems would have been easily resolved, eliminating worrisome delays.

This past August, Mayor Bloomburg said “The software doesn’t work,” responding to questions about why the bike-share program is on hold. Now, according to a post in the New York Times, flooding and damage from Hurricane Sandy has caused further setbacks.

According the PBSC Urban Solutions website, the software for the program is proprietary or closed source. If the source code were available, the city, a hired vendor, or citizens could have contributed solutions and expertise to the needs of the software project—proving the value for open source software.

The Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation weighed in on the situation.

Ms. Sadik-Khan said in August that the city, which became aware of the software issues last spring, did not initially anticipate that the operating code would need to be written “from scratch.”

All this sounds like a giant #FAIL to me. If the vendor had chose open source, they could haved failed faster and the bike share program might have launched on time. They also could have adopted open source software for bike sharing that already exists, like Shareabouts.

What do you think? If the operating code for the bike share program was open source, would we even be talking about this issue? Why should the vendor backing the program take an open source approach?

Originally posted on and reposted using Creative Commons.

About Shibby

Jason Hibbets is a senior community architect at Red Hat which means he is a mash-up of a community manager and project manager. At night, he wears his cape and is a captain for the Open Raleigh brigade, as well as a co-chair for NC Open Pass. Jason is the author of a book titled The foundation for an open source city--a resource for cities and citizens interested in improving their government through civic hacking. While writing the book, he discovered his unknown superpower of building communities of passionate people. Jason graduated from North Carolina State University and resides in Raleigh, NC with his wife, two kids, two border collies, chickens, lots of tomato plants, and a lazy raccoon somewhere in an oak tree. In his copious spare time, he enjoys surfing, running, gardening, traveling, watching football, sampling craft beer, and participating in local government--not necessarily in that order, but close to it. You can follow him on Twitter: @jhibbets
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