In the UK, bus stop Real Time Information (RTI) is served from a large number of diverse sources, each with distinct characteristics in the information they provide, and how they provide it. A source may serve just one operator, or just one region. Services that strive for National coverage have gaps, either because they cannot access some data due to licensing restrictions, or because for some services, no RTI is available.
This is a natural consequence of federating the provision of bus services out to the market, where a large number of operators are overseen by regional bodies. This may stimulate competition, but it results in a complex landscape for the provision of consistent, nationwide bus RTI. Commuters want consistency of information in the apps that they use, and app developers want a single reliable source of RTI that handles this complexity for them.
When approached by First Group to help improve the quality of RTI available to their customers, TransportAPI developed adapters for multiple feed formats – notably SIRI Stop Monitoring (SM) and aggregated the different sources of data available to First Group into a single consistent source. This included First Group’s internal sources and publicly available RTI. Where no RTI was available, gaps were filled using a database of schedules based on TransXChange (TXC) data from the Traveline National DataSet (TNDS). A configurable decision tree was developed to dictate the merging strategy, selecting primary and secondary sources, depending on the characteristics of the stop of interest.
Our partnership opens up some great opportunities to integrate our data with other transport feeds and provide customers with better journey planning information
Dave Lynch, CIO, FirstGroup
TransportAPI developed data cleansing tools, that allowed the logging – and if desired removal – of logically inconsistent departures, such as those in the past, and apparent duplicates. As First Group’s source providers have changed over time, TransportAPI have adapted their logic to reflect this, with the aim of providing the highest quality information, for the lowest cost.
TransportAPI take data quality very seriously and have developed metrics to measure the completeness and accuracy of RTI. These metrics can be used for diagnostics, reporting and monitoring. When issues are detected, we work with suppliers to resolve these at source, and when this is not possible, augment their suite of data cleansing tools to mitigate any issues.
Having a single point of responsibility for data performance and quality is what attracted First Group to TransportAPI. Without this it can be difficult for operators to know who to call when there are problems with particular data formats. There is inconsistency in standard industry data formats, and when this is combined with the complexity associated with a huge number of different data suppliers – varying regionally, and by organisation, it is very challenging for operators to provide a comprehensive view. This is the headache that TransportAPI have taken away from First Group benefitting the vast number of commuters who use First Group services everyday.
“We’re pleased to be working with Transport API. Our partnership opens up some great opportunities to integrate our data with other transport feeds and provide customers with better journey planning information. Across our business we’re working hard to make our bus services more attractive and encourage more people to travel with First Bus. Our partnership with Transport API further supports our passenger growth strategy “. Dave Lynch, CIO, First Group