The Future Cities Catapult TransportAPI service

5 Sep 2017 by Jonathan Raper

TransportAPI is available without signing up, in an offering supported by Future Cities Catapult. It’s something we mentioned briefly before, but how does this work? And what are the differences?

How to use

TransportAPI URLs are described in our API reference docs. Simply use any URL with an fcc. prefix, and without the app_id and app_key parameters. For example a request for live trains at Farringdon station:

If you try the same URL without the ‘fcc.’ prefix, our main API servers will reject the request because you need an app_id and app_key (you need to sign up)

Differences. Why sign up?

So we can use this without signing up. That’s easy! Why would we want to sign up?

We recently updated our plans page to include the FCC option alongside the free ‘Start’ plan. This summarises the key differences, and reasons why you might decide to sign up on the developer portal. Basically the FCC service is intended for experimentation, but not really intended for your app running in production. Here’s what this means in practice:

We will take the FCC server offline at least once per week for maintenance (such as timetable updates) This service may be slow at times due to heavy traffic from other users. We will need to cut people off based on IP/User agents if we see that a user is slowing/breaking the service.

We also automatically cut off access to various more expensive API endpoints when these are reaching certain limits each day. Calls to live bus data outside of London, journey planning, and cycle routing, are all subject to strict limits which will be applied collectively to all users of the FCC service. As with the API in general, we hope it will provide enough access to allow some interesting experimentation, but for any serious use…

If you sign up on for TransportAPI it’s still free of charge on the ‘Start’ plan, but our main API servers are load-balanced and kept online without interruption (at least no planned interruptions. We’ve kept most API endpoints available 100% of the time over the past 30 days. See our status page for details). Access limits will be applied in a way which you may find more fair and predictable, related to your own usage. With your requests authenticated by app_id & app_key, you can log into the developer portal to view statistics about your usage, and check how close you are to the ‘start’ plan limits.

Because we have your contact details and can link this to API usage, we find it easier to provide email support to users of our main API.

So it’s definitely worth thinking about signing up, but we know what developers are like. You want to start tinkering with the data without that hassle. So please do!

An open platform for Smart Cities experimentation

Philosophically speaking, offering up data without requiring sign up, is a significant step in the “open” direction (more thoughts on that here ), so we’re grateful to Future Cities Catapult for supporting this, and we hope you like it too!

FCC are providing this open access to their enterprise instance for use in experimental projects and proof of concept work, particularly if you have interesting smart cities or urban planning uses in mind. Internally at FCC we’re working with people on these kinds of projects. We’re listed as a datasource for “Organicity”, a data experimentation platform created by FCC, but we’re opening more widely, and we’re very keen to hear from other developers using transport data for smart cities/urban planning projects.