Open public transit data in the ACT


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  • For Google Maps HAS to be on a globally accessible website. So making it open is a political not technical issue
  • Risks of open data being embarrassing? Being on the radio, 2 evening news programs, local newspapers for being mean to kids is even more embarrassing. Finally after days of media scrutiny, a TAMS spokesperson claims data is bad. But "promise" they'll release Google Transit again by June 2011 So then the politicians get involved. ACT Greens are going to FOI raw data no matter what the current state is and have asked Chief Minister to get advice on "releasing it for use in open source applications.
  • May seem minor but to a computer the names have to be exactly the same for every route
  • (a distance of 2.778km as the bird flies in 4 minutes = flying at 40km/h. Reasonable bus route of 3.734km = 56km/h)
  • Worth noting community identified that one stop was actually used.
  • OpenStreetMappers already have quite a number of suburbs covered with bus stops at greater accuracy than anything ACTION provides to the public.
  • Anyway, asside from the doom and gloom of reality. The benefits!
  • - just as the websites fail at mobile formfactors, they are horrible for screen readers - Don't mean some arbitrary "oh you missed one alt tag". There are real roadblocks to the spirit of accessibility even if some of the WCAG2 priorties are fulfilled.    Like no anchor tags on the timetables; hard to navigate on mobile, hard to access generally. Or no “skip to content” to get around the sidebar.
  • - The "Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002" even explains that "that the provision of information at bus stops does not mean that material should not be available elsewhere." - The standard for large print is "18 point sans serif characters." - ACTION failed their last accessibly audit in this respect "ACTION did not provide adequate relevant and accessible information including large print options and route maps on bus stops" - Existing timetables could become even more confusing if simply enlarged - Opening this data could easily produce on-demand custom large print timetables - At the high-tech end, there's an area of research into Travel Assistant Devices that can take in GTFS and GPS location to say when to get on/off the bus!
  • - What if the next generation of mobile devices can do something better? Altered reality glasses? - Even current generation devices; there are many different opinions on the best mobile app, don't lock yourself into Google when you can have the local IT community try. - Or innovating in the field of public transit applications; the realtime transit data innovation is coming more from small agile groups working for one or two agencies than the huge legacy transport network management software makers  - Education is ACT largest export; plenty of fresh minds not just in ICT but Management/Commerce that could study different aspects - Data mashups that show best areas to live for public transport or best place for 2 people to meet:
  • - NSW RTA is "open-ish". Their GTFS is CC-BY 3.0 with "You must not use the Data in any way that could create false or misleading outcomes or interpretations, or bring the RTA into ridicule or disrepute."
  • - Manual analysis by auditors already indicates that the stops aren't in the right places - Planning rules say no residential property more than 500m from a bus stop, not always followed - Some newer suburbs have 100m spacing, some older suburbs have 400m. - "Clustering" where the 2 or so routes that service the same suburb aren't spaced out so if you miss one, you've missed the other! - Annecdotal evidence that recent networks favor northside over southside (or vice versa!) Is there any political motivation/influence?
  • 120 routes (Suburban and Intertown Express/"Rapid" services, not School services though) 263 route variants (weekend/saturday/sunday timetable, different directions) 220 timing points (landmarks, intersections, shopping centers, schools/universities) 49 spelling mistakes/duplications 1659 possible stop locations Could be double that in actual stops; one for each side of the road! 102 suburbs, 578 streets 834 point-to-point routes A->B, B->A, B->C on routes X,Y,Z etc. Based on Halifax case - first do it with a bike and a GPS and eventually you'll get the real data!
  • The last step took the longest to provide instruction for but if real open data came out, it could be merged here and still build on the corrections made.
  •                           - As a bonus, it does some validation on the input files eg. routes that go too fast for a bus so the data must be wrong - There are better libraries and platforms out there like OneBusAway but this one is easy to modify and resource cheap at the expense of performance                          - A lot of customisation about making the right queries for the views I want to present.
  • - OpenTripPlanner - Has some bonus features; calculates a couple of options, walking stage of travel included in overall route, transfer time/distance considered, preferring less transfers over fastest/shortest route
  • OTP doesn't have a geocoder yet, use the Cloudmade/OSM one Format turn directions into maps and words Access bus stops/routes/streets/suburbs
  • Open public transit data in the ACT

    1. 1. <ul>Open Public Transit Data in the ACT </ul><ul>Alexander Sadleir [email_address] </ul>
    2. 2. <ul>Outline </ul><ul><ul><li>Outline the problem and some of the history behind open transit data
    3. 3. Explore in greater detail some of the challenges and benefits of having open transit data
    4. 4. Demonstrate one real open source application of open transit data in the ACT </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. <ul>Problem </ul><ul><ul><li>All good solutions come from scratching an itch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Catch the bus everywhere but going somewhere new or at an unusual time is really hard
    6. 6. Even if I know what stop I want to board at, can't print out a timetable for that stop from the website, you can only see it at the stop and only for some stops (not the one near my house!).  </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obvious Solution: Developing a whole timetable and route planning app </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. <ul>What is open public transit data </ul><ul><ul><li>Electronic timetables and routes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>GTFS </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Text files of Routes/Stops/Trips
    8. 8. Combine into zip file on website </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Next Gen: Real-time network information (vehicle location, network status/faults) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Web services/APIs usually </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Passenger volumes/trips data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Privacy implications for trips </li></ul></ul></ul>
    9. 9. <ul>History </ul>2006  <ul><li>Google begins developing Google Maps for Transit.
    10. 10. GIRO (the developer of the HASTUS bus scheduling system ACTION uses) announces native exports direct to the google data format [?]
    11. 11. ACTION budget cuts; dissolved as statutory authority and merged with TAMS/Urban Services [?] </li></ul>2007  <ul><li>Google Maps for Transit data format renamed General Transit Feed Service to reflect changing of community </li><ul><li>Not just data management tools but alternative traveller facing applications. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. <ul>History </ul><ul><li>2008 </li><ul><li>First documented request for ACTION data   [?] </li></ul><li>2009 </li><ul><li>Google says by June, June comes and goes [?]
    13. 13. Same old form letter about it's coming   [?] </li><ul><li>&quot;Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.&quot; </li></ul><li>OpenTripPlanner unifies 5 open-source projects to make a unified turnkey trip planner </li></ul><li>2010 </li><ul><li>Nothing from ACTION except some new network updates. </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. <ul>History </ul><ul>2011 </ul><ul><li>Uni students make &quot;prototype&quot; app over their summer break and present it to ACTION
    15. 15. Denied any collaboration for &quot;Political reasons&quot;? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goto media! </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. <ul>How bad is the data? </ul><ul>North Lynehamham City Interchange (Platform 9) City Bus Station Platfrom 9 Black Moutain- Telstra Tower   Yarrulumla   Tharwa / Knoke   Tharwa / Pocket </ul><ul>North Lyneham City Bus Station (Platform 9) <li>Black Mountain Telstra Tower
    17. 17. Yarralumla
    18. 18. Tharwa Drive / Pockett Ave </li></ul>
    19. 21. <ul>Not just about bad timetabling data </ul><ul>August 2010 report identifies TAMS/Roads ACT says 2950 stops, ACTION says 4652 stops [?]   Roads sends maintenance plan to ACTION to check, gets all clear. By February 2011 already accidentally spent over $5000 on improving benches/concrete where no buses even stop. [?] </ul>
    20. 22. <ul>Fear and Loathing in Risk Adverse Cultures </ul><ul>Clearly data quality isn't the issue <ul><li>Bad but not useless </li></ul><li>How could you be worried about what downstream developers do when your own website, timetables and internal information systems are wrong?
    21. 23. The embarrassment of the data quality is the issue. </li></ul>
    22. 24. Organisational Context &quot;Both TAMS and ACTION have confirmed that corporate systems, governance and capability in the business have been somewhat compromised over the past three to four years [since the reorganisation].&quot;   [?] ACTION fails to maintain all sorts of private data; keeping records of bus maintenance checks, keeping records of cancelled services, keeping records on accidents, keeping records on complaints, keeping records on failed ticket machines and subsequent lost revenue
    23. 25. <ul>Data improvement efforts </ul><ul><ul><li>You're not MEANT to get it right the first time. GTFS usage is based around iterative improvements.
    24. 26. Why not give it to the community to fix? </li></ul></ul>
    25. 27. <ul>Applications of Open Public Transit Data </ul><ul><ul><li>Route planners *are* a better user experience  </li><ul><li>Bus patronage rises where people who already take buses for commuting are confident about how to get from A to B at other times.
    26. 28. New patrons know immediately how to change buses in hub-and-spoke system.
    27. 29. UniversIty of Washington Seattle case study shows 90%+ of smartphone owners that use trip planners feel more satisfied by public transport, safer, wait less time and take more travels after the launch of mobile app with trip planner! [?] </li></ul></ul></ul>
    28. 30. <ul>Not just route planners! </ul><ul>Better website and printed/pdf timetables <li>&quot;Haven't needed a #Canberra bus in so long I'd forgotten how much ACTION's web site is stuck in 1997.&quot;
    29. 31. &quot;Dear You fail. You fail at everything. You fail as a website, as a bus service... as everything.&quot;
    30. 32. &quot;LOL was looking at Action bus site today as car booked for service tomoz. What a state of #1996 Abyssmal in fact.&quot;
    31. 33. </li></ul>
    32. 34. <ul>Better Website/Timetables </ul><ul><ul><li>Modern web standards might be a little hard; currently network updates are entered using dreamweaver!
    33. 35. If they were generated rather than marked up by hand, would always be consistent and reflect the &quot;shift cards&quot; aka directions given to bus drivers out of the HASTUS system
    34. 36. No more ambiguity about edge case routes like 39 (no last stop on northbourne) or 81 (school holidays only) or Xpresso/Rapid/Limited Stops services  </li></ul></ul>
    35. 37. <ul>Better (or any) Mobile Apps </ul><ul><ul><li>- Latest review of ACTION specifically says 'establishment of iphone [sic] applications for the ACTION timetable, and provision of real time information at bus stops on expected arrivals;' [?]
    36. 38. Demand for just getting the timetables in a handheld device sized format </li><ul><li>Unofficial Android and iPhone apps out now </li></ul><li>Although, that expectation is quickly being dwarfed by the call for real time information </li></ul></ul>
    37. 39. <ul>Better (or any) Mobile Apps </ul><ul>-eg. Network Management from OneBusAway <li>- Adjusting/patching the GTFS data in real time to disable certain trips/routes/stops or divert them  </li></ul>
    38. 40. <ul>Better (or any) Mobile Apps </ul><ul><ul><li>- Too high tech? A suggestion seen on the internet: </li></ul><li>&quot;They could start by using Twitter to announce scheduled services that are unable to run, or when buses have broken down mid-route. Twitter is free, and would only take 30 seconds to type in the memo that is already verbally distributed to drivers via two-way.&quot; [?] </li><ul><li>Already someone from community runs @ACTIONBusses to distribute announcements from website. @ACTPol_Traffic and @TAMSmediaroom providing traffic incident and road closure information. </li></ul></ul>
    39. 41. <ul>Better mobile information access </ul><ul>Website is hard to use on a mobile device and very data heavy. </ul>
    40. 42. <ul>Better mobile information access </ul><ul>Promised online route planner won't solve problem of timetables where I already know where I want to go and needs consistent/costly data connectivity <ul>- Imagine Team already offer that for Android, some paid iPhone apps around with offline functionality </ul></ul>
    41. 43. <ul>Better Accessiblity </ul>
    42. 44. <ul>Better Accessiblity </ul><ul>Better Large Print Timetables </ul>
    43. 45. <ul>Better Community Engagement </ul><ul>- Externalising the cost of innovation        - ACTION is always running at a loss, no budget for experimentation </ul>
    44. 46. <ul>Better Accountablity </ul><ul>Okay, not a good case for the Transit Authority - Imagine Team seem to have accidently hinted at it with their late bus tracking.                  - But Accountablity does happen.                          - Yarra trams use their real time data to produce monthly performance reports on service </ul>
    45. 47. <ul>Better Accountablity </ul><ul>- FixMyTransitSystem: busses that don't come on time (or don't come at all), busses that are overcrowded, busses with broken ticket machines resulting in free rides, busses with broken air con, bus stops with inadequate facilities - ACTION isn't keeping good open records on these things and I'm sure they wouldn't be happy when someone starts doing it in a domain they can't control </ul>
    46. 48. <ul>Better Accountablity </ul><ul>- Optimizing a better transit system; is the transfer time in the ACT appropriate by world standards, are the stops in the right places </ul>
    47. 49. <ul>My Mobile App Platform </ul><ul><ul><li>10 months of development: would be alot less with a data import... but now have intimate knowledge of the intricacies of network! 
    48. 50. Built own database by drawing on sources like NearMap and OpenStreetMap as well as visiting bus stops and stations </li></ul></ul>
    49. 51. <ul>Data cleansing and management workflow </ul><ul>- Correct spelling mistakes - Locate/fix/merge timing points - Add/remove/move stops - Reverse geocode stop locations into streets and suburbs - String together stops into routes </ul>
    50. 52. <ul>Timetable access/generation platform </ul><ul>- Turns the text files into objects which can then be accessed by a website  “ What routes service this stop? What stops are near this point?” <li>Based on the Google provided python library and example webapp </li></ul>
    51. 53. <ul>Route planner platform </ul><ul>Basically: Calculates the shortest path between two points </ul>
    52. 54. <ul>Mobile Interface  </ul><ul>- Provides access to backend services. - Cross-platform - Does let you access it from desktop PCs too! </ul>
    53. 55. <ul>Mobile Interface  </ul><ul>- Context aware - Adaptive degeneration - Goes from modern Webkit smartphones to ancient html proxying devices  </ul>
    54. 56. <ul>Mobile Interface  </ul><ul><ul><li>Geolocation and Time </li><ul><li>Taking advantage of as much information as possible </li></ul><li>Access route planner </li></ul></ul>
    55. 57. <ul>Mobile Interface  </ul><ul>- Different perspectives/dimensions to the existing data  - Quickly filters the overwhelming amount of information to that which is relevant to mobile users </ul>
    56. 58. <ul>Conc. </ul><ul>  Great potential for open transit data in ACT in the coming months! - Data on verge of officially being released, if not community will just hack it together - Lots of mobile devices - Lots more data potentially coming out of new ticketing system - Community interest both in using and developing - ACTION has limited resources; unlikely that they can carry the responsibility of effectively using data themselves </ul>