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Sub story to regular feature: Issue 598 11 Jun 2012

Making better travel information add up

Where is my bus? This is a question asked less in the UK now that hundreds of thousands of people each month check information on the next scheduled departures or, where available, the predicted departure time, using data from the NextBuses application programme interface.    

Traveline has now made available its Application Programme Interface (API) for developers, which gives the next scheduled departures from any of 350,000 bus stops in the country or, where available, its real-time predicted departure time.

The NextBuses API combines data from ten journey planning systems and 31 local real-time systems from across the UK and blends them into a single machine-readable data feed. Without the API, developers would need to connect to 41 separate systems to provide the same information to users of apps. This means that demand for the service is high and there are 750,000 API stop enquiries per month according to the latest figures. Making the API available on an open data basis for free for developers up to agreed limits last year means that Traveline now funds 100% of the revenue costs and its revenue from its call centre is declining. Traveline is considering how in this context it can make the business case for providing the service free.

A NextBuses app and a MyBus app, provided by developer Trapeze, which also created thetrainline app on rail times, are available. Other companies are seeking to further exploit this dataset: transport data aggregator Placr is one example. It is using the API and information on timetables and route details released by Traveline, Transport for London and Network Rail into a single consistent form for developers to use in apps and services.

Placr has also created a public transport web app for smartphones,, which uses geo-location to allow the travelling public to find nearby public transport services.  It is facing competition from National Rail Enquiries, which released its own app shortly before it made available its train service running data as open data.

The growth in real-time data provision can also be seen in the latest project from ITO World, which has been working with Google to convert live London Underground data released by TfL as open data into a format suitable for ‘Google Transit,’ the transport information overlaid onto Google Maps. When there are reported delays or scheduled engineering works affecting one Underground line you are re-directed onto an alternative route.

Discuss this at LTT's Open Data, Cities & Transport Event on the 27 Jue 2012

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