Last Wednesday night the City of Seattle and it sponsors held the Hack the Commute Championship Round to determine the winner of the contest which began last month. The panel of judges was comprised of Microsoft Executive Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Planning Kurt DelBene, Google Transit Engineer Brian Ferris, City of Seattle Deputy Mayor of Operations Kate Joncas, SDOT Director Scott Kubly, and Commute Seattle Executive Director Jessica Szelag. Three finalists presented:


Slugg is an app to help people create informal on demand carpools. Slugg is very similar to the practice of slugging but with one key difference: users will only be matched with other users that are employed by the same company. Those seeking rides simply open the app and will be presented with a list of those offering rides, and a countdown until the driver is planning on leaving.

Hackcessible – Access Map

Access Map is a web-based map that helps those with mobility issues find routes throughout Seattle. The data, which comes from a variety of sources, includes grade (elevation change) information, the location of curb ramps, public elevators, construction projects, and bus stops. In the future, Access Map hopes to crowdsource some of their data, and also wants to share the data to help the city find problem places or identify the most accessible places of the city.

Work Orbit

Work Orbit is a web-based commute planning tool targeted at newcomers to Seattle. Users input their work address and can view walk sheds, bike sheds, and bus sheds of commutes that are 20, 40, or 60 minutes away. The tool also includes data from Zillow to help users get a feel for various neighborhoods that are within the commute range of their work. Work Orbit also plans to integrate overlays with Pronto! stations as well as existing and future Link stations.

…and the winner is: Hackcessible

The team members will walk away with a prize package and will continue to refine their app. Here’s to hoping the city will provide ongoing support for the project, which seems likely given the city’s commitment to open data. Mayor Ed Murray noted that he was just as excited to meet OneBusAway creator Brian Ferris as he was meeting Russell Wilson.

8 Replies to “Hack The Commute Winner”

  1. Do you know how Hackcessible will work for those who don’t have smart phones? I think it’s great that they’re working to help those with mobility issues, but most of those folks I’ve been working with are far on the other side of the digital divide.

    1. What kind of hardware is accessible for deaf-blind and typing-challenged riders?

      I know DragonSpeak has been around forever, but that’s software.

      1. The extraordinary Catlin Bonner and Dr. Alan Borning at UW have been working on accessible transit tech for a while. I’m not sure about hardware, but I know they’ve been working to make OneBusAway work better for blind users. Borning, along with Dr. Anat Caspi of the UW Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, are working with the team behind this app. The Taskar Center is a great resource for anyone interested in technology accessibility.

  2. Slugg seems like it’s going to be DOA. It requires a minimum of 500 employees per company per neighborhood. There’s only a few companies that could even come close to that and those are the obvious ones that either located themselves in the city, or already have solutions like private shuttles if they are in the suburbs.

    Point is, I don’t see what problem Slugg actually solves.

    1. Conceptually, the idea does make sense. It’s for people that live along a major commuting route, but aren’t well-served by transit. For instance, if you live in Green Lake and work at Amazon in SLU, the theoretical combined frequency of all your co-workers driving my your neighborhood on their way to work should far exceed the service frequency of even so-called “frequent” routes like the E-line or the 16. You would also get a ride right to the employee parking garage, rather than have to walk a ways from the nearest bus stop.

      The problem is that a system like this requires a critical mass of both drivers and passengers all going to the same place in order to work. Without enough passengers, it’s not worth the driver’s time to install the app and log into it every morning. Without enough drivers, it’s not worth the passengers time to log into it every morning and see the “no drivers available” message day after day after day.

      Since the driver already has a direct ride from home to work, the only real incentive for the driver to sign up is money. However, even $4/gallon gas is still cheap enough that simply splitting the cost of gas with the passenger is not likely to be sufficient. My guess is that you would probably need fares to be at least $3-5 per person, each way, to get drivers on board, but a price point that high would deter passengers when they can ride the bus for free (using an employer-sponsored pass) or drive themselves to work for the same price. It would also open a legal grey area in between carpooling and rides for hire that would open up a bunch of thorny questions regarding taxes and insurance that both the drivers and the Slugg people would likely much rather not deal with.

      While it’s a great idea in theory, in practice, you are probably right that the odds of success are quite long.

      If we’re looking for a dynamic carpooling solution, my first bet would be something under the umbrella of Uber or Lyft.

  3. Work Orbit sounds awesome, but it doesn’t seem to work. Every address I try tells me “Please enter a valid address” until I add “, Seattle”. Then it takes me to a map divided into neighborhoods, but without any information corresponding to the address I entered.

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