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Data / Startups / Transportation

Fixing transit with data: Dag Gogue’s Transit Labs

Transit Labs recently announced a contract with the city of Detroit, using cloud computing software to help the Motor City reduce transit costs and wait times.

Transit Labs CEO Dag Gogue speaks during the 1776 Challenge Cup in 2013. Since then, several transit agencies have employed his data visualization software. (Photo courtesy of Transit Labs)

Transit Labs, a D.C.-based startup that crunches data for transit systems, seems to have it all mapped out.
Last week, it announced a new partnership with the Detroit Department of Transportation which will allow the company to test its program. In exchange, it will help the Motor City reduce wait times and costs for free.
In May, the company cinched four other contracts with local transportation authorities.
A few years ago, this might have just seemed like the pipe dream of CEO Dag Gogue.
When he moved here alone from Togo at 16 to enroll at Morehouse College, he didn’t have a plan quite yet, said Gogue. “But I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
“It’s always fun to flush out the stories, the trends, the patterns that the data is telling.”

It's always fun to flush out the stories, the trends, the patterns that the data is telling.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he worked in transportation consulting and soon found that something was missing in the field.
By 2009, he was charting a project to “collect data in a much more efficient way and a much more accurate manner,” he said. His first office space consisted of his home and “the library across the street” in Rockville, Md.
Gogue conceived TAP, the Transportation Application Platform, which launched as a pilot program available to 24 states and regions in May. TAP has compiled data on every single transit system in the country, from demographic information to travel logs and economic data, and can track over 100 performance measures. For Detroit, the company will be powering its program in the Microsoft Azure Government cloud.
It wasn’t simple to convince local transportation authorities to believe in the power of data. But, he said, “They used me because they had no choice — they had problems that they couldn’t solve.” Now, Gogue added, “They are getting less and less skittish about trying new technology.”
In 2012, Transit Labs received its first contract with a transit agency — a one-year, $252,000 commitment from the Georgia Department of Transportation. More contracts followed — in Miami, Atlanta and Macon, Ga.
Last July, Gogue made his first hire. Transit Labs now has a full-time staff of seven located at 1776, the civic-minded tech incubator and venture capital firm. It is now seeking its own offices.
Side note: you won’t be surprised to hear Gogue’s prognosis on the D.C. public transportation system. “[It’s] too expensive for a big portion of the population,” he said, and “they have a lot of escalator maintenance issues.”
He is currently in discussions with the WMATA about providing consulting services to the city for free. “It’s always fun,” Gogue said, to “flush out the stories, the trends, the patterns that the data is telling so that the trustees and officials can make their decisions.”

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