Hack for MN yields new bus-tracking app

DevJam hosts civic hacking event at 46th & Bryant

Jacob Dalton and Cory Preus develop a community messaging system at Hack for MN, hosted by DevJam at 46th & Bryant. Credit: Michelle Bruch

Eighty “civic hackers” recently congregated at the old Jack’s space at 46th & Bryant for a weekend of data diving and app development.

One group created a prototype for Mspbus.org that went live the first day of the event. It uses a phone’s geo-location to show how many minutes it will take for buses to arrive at nearby stops.

“I’m from Seattle, and they already had this stuff,” said Matt Decuir. “The data is available [in Minneapolis], but it’s not easy to get at.”

DevJam is headquartered in the former Java Jack’s coffeehouse at 818 W. 46th St., and the software company hosted Hack for MN June 1-2 as an Open Twin Cities event. Open Twin Cities formed in November with a mission of improving technology in the Twin Cities.

“We want to make the process of accessing technology more democratic,” said Bill Bushey, co-founder of Open Twin Cities and tech coordinator of E-Democracy.org.

At the Hack for MN event, groups developed digital legislative annotation, an automated polling place finder, and an app that could determine a new development’s impact on parking. Groups also developed a website for high school students to find resume-building work opportunities, and a tech resource finder to help bridge the digital divide for low-income people.

“We all met each other yesterday,” said Jacob Dalton, who worked with a group on community messaging. They created a system that would allow neighbors to shout out a message to a radius of their choice — say, two miles from home — to help find a lost cat, or send a block party invite.

Cities around the country are increasingly holding civic hacking events like this one.

“It’s a growing movement,” Bushey said.