Roads & Transportation
Editor: Andy Mabbett
Where are we? How can we get to where we want to go? How long will it take? What will it cost? Whether we’re travelling a mile up the road or we want to get to the other side of the globe, travel and transport raises the same basic questions. Answering them has always been a data-driven task. We started with printed maps, timetables and price lists. More recently we’ve had websites, mobile apps and realtime information boards. Whatever the format, without data these things are impossible. More
Access to data about travel has always been the privilege of government and private transport operators. Now data is being made available for everyone to use in their own projects. Open data isn’t just useful for travellers. Campaigners can use data to press government and public transport operators to improve services. In this section we’ll be looking at examples of great apps and visualisations built around transport data and seeing how you can find and use the data you need for your own projects. Show less ^
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[Quotes from DfT press release; applies in England only, being a devolved matter for regional parliaments/ assemblies]
“Full information about speed cameras will be published by local authorities and the police for the first time”
“The Department [for Transport] has today written to English highway authorities setting out the requirements… for publication of accident, casualty and speed data.”
“The information should usually include annual collision and casualty data back to 1990 for the numbers of killed and seriously injured people and for all personal injuries. Local authorities which support camera enforcement financially should also ensure that a deployment strategy is published.”
“Police forces are to publish the number of prosecutions arising from each permanent or long term temporary fixed camera site in their area each year, along with the total number of offences recorded by all cameras and the total numbers of offenders given a fixed penalty notice, or taken to court and the numbers of people opting to complete speed awareness courses.”
[Note: No mention made of data formats or licensing]
OpenCorporates is an independent, open-licensed database of company information, available as web pages, plus xml, json or rdf.
It has details of many transport-related companies; and groupings of such companies. Try, for example, a search for “Stagecoach”.
Antwerp’s A-Velo bike share scheme launched recently. Oliver O’Brien thinks the scheme operator may have, possibly deliberately, slowed down the speed of access to the data on how empty or full each cycle dock is.
He finds other problems in other European bike share data - and good practice in North America.
The UK Met. Office have data on the ash cloud, mapped in human-understandable graphical format and as CSV files.
The Open Government Licence applies to the latter; see: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/legal/tandc
Here’s a near-prefect example of good practice: everything on the RAIB site (with the reasonable exceptions of its logo and third-party content) is available under the Open Government Licence.
We say “near-prefect”, because we can’t find any RSS feeds. They tell us they made a decision not to include them, as they’re “small and don’t publish many updates” and have an e-mail notification list.
We think they could easily create a feed, at little cost, but including the hAtom microformat on their news page:
(they’d need to show the date of each update; but that’s good practice anyway) and piping it through a third-party parser, as done, for example, by this West Midland Bird Club page:
whose feed is available at this URL:
Short, succinct, yet powerful set of slides (on SlideShare) by Jonathan Raper of Placr.
To mark today’s launch of the space shuttle ‘Endeavour’, on its final (and the penultimate shuttle) mission, here’s NASA’s open data on its flight, and on the ISS.
“Chromaroma is a game that shows you your movements and location as you swipe your Oyster Card in and out of the Tube (Bus, Tram and Boat coming soon).”
You have until Monday 20th June 2011 to respond to the Office of Rail Regulation consultation out on “giving passengers the information they need to plan and make journeys”. Richard Fairhurst explains why it’s imporant to do so, and provides a copy of his own, excellent, response.
You know what to do…
Excellent and detailed post by Jonathan Raper, examining both techcnical and political considerations.
An interesting use of open data (from OpenStreetMap) by the Green Party’s London Assembly Member and Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones, showing the extent of the Paris cycle-hire scheme, overlaid over a map of London and its scheme.
Hat-tip to @AdrianShort for the link.
Now that we’re going to have a transport hack day in the (English) West Midlands (see forum), it’s a good time to look at what happened at the recent new York city and San Francisco equivalents.
It’s not just the UK where getting open public transport data can be like trying to wring blood from a stone. Stefan Wehrmeyer’s guest post for the Open Knowledge Foundation’s blog describes similar problems in Berlin, and argues that such data should be made available in General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format.
What’s happening in other countries? If you know of good or bad examples, please share them with us.
Tomorrow, 4 May, the Ordnance Survey hold “GeoVation Showcase”, the ‘dragons den’ style conclusion of the social open innovation awards programme which has “run challenges to help bring people’s geography based ideas to life”, including ‘How can we improve transport in Britain?’
It will be worth watching the usual channels (Twitter, Delicious, Flickr, etc.) and @GeoVation for live updates and subsequent round-ups.
This Telegraph article from 2009 is full of promise:
“…transport providers, such as train, tube and bus companies, will lose the right to demand a hefty fee from anyone who wishes to publish the information - such as independent travel websites and companies devising programs for mobile phones”
but how does the reality compare?
This newly refreshed site uses transport data from public resources such as Traveline Scotland, National Rail Enquiries, the BBC, Traffic Scotland and Google.
This site by Matthew Somerville provides a lightweight, accessible version of the National Rail Enquiries site. The timetable data is acquired through screenscraping and station locations come from NaPTAN, the Department for Transport’s list of every train station, bus stop and other public transport access points.
You can view a live map of train movements and live departure boards for any station or platform.
A live 3D display of bike availability in the London’s Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. Data is pulled from the Boris Bikes API and plotted as a 3D bar chart allowing you to see areas of high and low bike availability. The visualisation runs in Google Earth and updates once per minute.
Most public transport apps need the locations of “public transport access nodes”. This is the official dataset from the Department for Transport. NaPTAN has been incorporated into OpenStreetMap and this data can be accessed through OpenStreetMap’s API.
CodePoint Open is an essential building block for many transport apps. This dataset lists the latitudes and longitudes of every postcode in England, Scotland and Wales, along with administrative area data such as local authorities and council wards. If your app starts with people typing in their postcodes or if you want to plot a set of addresses on a map, you’ll need this data.
Stuart Harrison has provided an easy-to-use API for CodePoint Open data, while MySociety’s MaPit API provides more advanced features including coverage for Northern Ireland.
Andy Mabbett is a freelance advisor on online issues, based in Birmingham, following a successful…
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