Open public transit data in the ACTPresentation Transcript
Open Public Transit Data in the ACT
Alexander Sadleir [email_address]
Outline the problem and some of the history behind open transit data
Explore in greater detail some of the challenges and benefits of having open transit data
Demonstrate one real open source application of open transit data in the ACT
All good solutions come from scratching an itch
Catch the bus everywhere but going somewhere new or at an unusual time is really hard
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!).
Obvious Solution: Developing a whole timetable and route planning app
What is open public transit data
Electronic timetables and routes
Text files of Routes/Stops/Trips
Combine into zip file on website
Next Gen: Real-time network information (vehicle location, network status/faults)
Web services/APIs usually
Passenger volumes/trips data
Privacy implications for trips
Google begins developing Google Maps for Transit.
GIRO (the developer of the HASTUS bus scheduling system ACTION uses) announces native exports direct to the google data format [?]
ACTION budget cuts; dissolved as statutory authority and merged with TAMS/Urban Services [?]
Google Maps for Transit data format renamed General Transit Feed Service to reflect changing of community
Not just data management tools but alternative traveller facing applications.
First documented request for ACTION data [?]
Google says by June, June comes and goes [?]
Same old form letter about it's coming [?]
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."
OpenTripPlanner unifies 5 open-source projects to make a unified turnkey trip planner
Nothing from ACTION except some new network updates.
Uni students make "prototype" app over their summer break and present it to ACTION
Denied any collaboration for "Political reasons"?
How bad is the data?
North Lynehamham City Interchange (Platform 9) City Bus Station Platfrom 9 Black Moutain- Telstra Tower Yarrulumla Tharwa / Knoke Tharwa / Pocket
North Lyneham City Bus Station (Platform 9)
Black Mountain Telstra Tower
Tharwa Drive / Pockett Ave
Not just about bad timetabling data
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. [?]
Fear and Loathing in Risk Adverse Cultures
Clearly data quality isn't the issue
Bad but not useless
How could you be worried about what downstream developers do when your own website, timetables and internal information systems are wrong?
The embarrassment of the data quality is the issue.
Organisational Context "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]." [?] 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
Data improvement efforts
You're not MEANT to get it right the first time. GTFS usage is based around iterative improvements.
Why not give it to the community to fix?
Applications of Open Public Transit Data
Route planners *are* a better user experience
Bus patronage rises where people who already take buses for commuting are confident about how to get from A to B at other times.
New patrons know immediately how to change buses in hub-and-spoke system.
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! [?]
Not just route planners!
Better website and printed/pdf timetables
"Haven't needed a #Canberra bus in so long I'd forgotten how much ACTION's web site is stuck in 1997." http://twitter.com/projectgus/status/35472831991123968
"Dear Action.act.gov.au. You fail. You fail at everything. You fail as a website, as a bus service... as everything." http://twitter.com/emslibbles/status/37468000114184192
"LOL was looking at Action bus site today as car booked for service tomoz. What a state of #1996 Abyssmal in fact."
Modern web standards might be a little hard; currently network updates are entered using dreamweaver!
If they were generated rather than marked up by hand, would always be consistent and reflect the "shift cards" aka directions given to bus drivers out of the HASTUS system
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
Better (or any) Mobile Apps
- 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;' [?]
Demand for just getting the timetables in a handheld device sized format
Unofficial Android and iPhone apps out now
Although, that expectation is quickly being dwarfed by the call for real time information
Better (or any) Mobile Apps
-eg. Network Management from OneBusAway http://www.youtube.com/user/onebusaway
- Adjusting/patching the GTFS data in real time to disable certain trips/routes/stops or divert them
Better (or any) Mobile Apps
- Too high tech? A suggestion seen on the internet:
"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." [?]
Already someone from community runs @ACTIONBusses to distribute announcements from website. @ACTPol_Traffic and @TAMSmediaroom providing traffic incident and road closure information.
Better mobile information access
Website is hard to use on a mobile device and very data heavy.
Better mobile information access
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
- Imagine Team already offer that for Android, some paid iPhone apps around with offline functionality
Better Large Print Timetables
Better Community Engagement
- Externalising the cost of innovation - ACTION is always running at a loss, no budget for experimentation
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
- 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
- Optimizing a better transit system; is the transfer time in the ACT appropriate by world standards, are the stops in the right places
My Mobile App Platform
10 months of development: would be alot less with a data import... but now have intimate knowledge of the intricacies of network!
Built own database by drawing on sources like NearMap and OpenStreetMap as well as visiting bus stops and stations
Data cleansing and management workflow
- 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
Timetable access/generation platform
- 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?”
Based on the Google provided python library and example webapp
Route planner platform
Basically: Calculates the shortest path between two points
- Provides access to backend services. - Cross-platform - Does let you access it from desktop PCs too!
- Context aware - Adaptive degeneration - Goes from modern Webkit smartphones to ancient html proxying devices
Geolocation and Time
Taking advantage of as much information as possible
Access route planner
- Different perspectives/dimensions to the existing data - Quickly filters the overwhelming amount of information to that which is relevant to mobile users
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