trimet-greyThe Situation

With 99 million trips last year, Portland’s TriMet is an award-winning transit system with a forward-thinking approach to technology. When TriMet set out to overhaul their Interactive System Map and integrate it with their existing Trip Planner, they wanted to switch out proprietary components for open source alternatives.

In early 2007, the TriMet team carried out a prototype project, building a working system based on open source components: GeoServer, OpenLayers and PostGIS. Based on the experience with the prototype, TriMet moved to build a production system, and in 2008 they had a beta application ready. However, now that it was time to move into production, a new question arose: who would provide support for the open source software (GeoServer, OpenLayers, PostGIS) underlying the new system?

TriMet needed a support partner, one who would build reliable, extensible technology while providing world-class support for all the components of the new Trip Planner.

Boundless was a perfect fit: the organization had the stability and skills to support TriMet in the long term and the GeoServer Enterprise support contract provided guaranteed access to experts in the software.

“GeoServer Enterprise offered us the flexible and comprehensive support we were looking for: expertise and knowledge transfer from core developers; feature development that’s incorporated into the source code; unlimited priority bug fixes; and fast and reliable technical support,” says Bibiana McHugh, TriMet’s IT Manager of GIS and Location-Based Services.

Because Boundless is a core contributor to all the technologies TriMet has deployed – PostGIS, GeoServer, and OpenLayers – we can ensure that all software enhancements make it back into the project source code.

On The Move

Boundless believes in engaging our technical leaders directly with the client, rather than interposing a layer of management – the people who are creating the solutions need to have a first-hand understanding of the problems. For the TriMet contract, OpenLayers expert Tim Schaub was assigned to work directly with the client.

Tim began by taking a trip to the TriMet office. Tim has more than a decade of experience building geospatial solutions for conservation and planning authorities in the Pacific Northwest.

“Tim came to our office and spent several days with my team,” says Bibiana. Knowing he was taking the time to get a full understanding of where we were and what we needed set the tone for a very successful and transparent working relationship. “

Over the next few months, Tim worked with the TriMet developers to roll out new features in the Trip Planner. OpenLayers was enhanced with a new measuring tool that helps TriMet staff plan accessible transit trip. GeoServer was enhanced to provide better cartographic rendering features, like street name labels that closely follow the roads.

All the software improvements were made available to TriMet immediately, and also rolled into the core projects, for long-term maintenance and support. The development was tracked using an open ticket tracker and mailing lists, so TriMet could track the work in as much detail as they liked.

“We knew exactly how the work was coming along, and we could see that hours weren’t inflated,” says Bibiana. “That trust goes a long way.”

Open Technology and Standards

OpenGeo Suite is standards-enabled by default. That means that all the services TriMet built for the Trip Planner were easily re-usable in other projects. The GeoServer map service is available in a standards-compliant “Web Map Server” and now used by other levels of government as a high quality base map for the region.

Building on standards lets TriMet provide access to all, without investing time and money in specifying data formats or handing out export files.


Boundless helped TriMet move in the right direction. Embracing open source, TriMet has the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their ridership, and the freedom to choose the best service and technology providers. It also saves thousands in licensing and support costs.

With their best-of-breed Trip Planner, TriMet has set a high bar for other transit authorities. The site helps the area’s 2.3 million residents get around, with clear route connections and a seamless user experience.

And it’s great for visitors too. On your next trip to Portland, we suggest visiting the Oregon History Center and Sam Jackson Park, conveniently accessible via Bus 8.

Boundless can help you get moving too. Contact us to learn how.


The base-map rendered by GeoServer.


The trip information bubble from OpenLayers.