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Google Transit

dpneal [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, December 8, 2005
16 years ago

Google has released a new Labs product. It's called Google Transit, and allows you to find directions from one place to another using public transport.

I really like it. I know it's just come out, but i can't wait til it covers more areas. I was just looking last night at a site which lets you see where your buses are in Oxford, UK, and though how this could greatly improve public transport usage. This new Google tool will probably do it better.

mjc [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Hi,

Could you post a link to the Oxford busses site? I live in Oxford but never knew there was such a service – might be useful unitl Google extended Transit (slowly, no doubt!).

Thanks,
Mark

mjc [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Ah, I think i have found it, here:

http://oxfordshire.acislive.com/

The interface is very disappointing compared to GMaps. I might have to have a go at using the Maps API with their data...

dpneal [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

yeah thats the one. can you find the source for their data? I was going to do a mashup too, but couldn't find the data. where is it?

thanks

mjc [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

No, the only way I can see to get at the data is but running queries through their website, unsurprisingly.

You could scrape the data by periodically running queries – that's how most of these mashup-apps work. It works OK if the data doesn't change very often, but might not be so good if you wanted real-time bus positions.

Perhaps they could be convinced to provide more direct access to their data. It is a public service, after all. I've shot them a quick email asking nicely, so we'll see.

dpneal [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Brilliant! I wrote them an email too. Hopefully they'll take notice

mjc [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Well, here's the reply – very prompt of them, and the council themselves seem to be agreeable, but it looks like their hands are tied:

==========================
Dear Mark,

Many thanks for your e-mail to Oxontime and the useful comments on the mapping.

We are aware that at present the mapping is not ideal but are unfortunately constrained by what ACIS, our supplier, is able to provide. We do have some development requests outstanding with ACIS however and I hope we will see things improve during the next year.

We have suggested to ACIS that Google maps could be used as a better way of presenting the information, however they commented that the problem they have when using other people's software e.g. Google Maps, is that it is not under their control and therefore with a highly technical product such as ACISLive any small change to the google maps software may require major
development work on their part. Also they cannot guarantee any service using software not under their control.

This brings us to your suggestion of having the raw data publically available. I agree that there could be benefits in providing this to the public but the bus companies think otherwise. All of the data recorded by the system is stored and becomes property of Oxfordshire County Council. The County Council has data sharing agreements in place with the bus operators which limits what this data can be used for. Effectively Oxford
Bus Company can only see and use data from their services and similarly for Stagecoach. Although I am sure neither company has anything sinister to hide, the companies are very competitive and if each company was able to access the complete operating details of its competitor this would clearly have repercussions. Making such data publically available therefore becomes difficult.

We should be seeing mapping improvements in the coming year. I hope in the meantime you are still able to find the site useful, please let me know any further observations; comments are always useful to help ensure we are providing what the user wants.

Best wishes

Steve Hayes
Transport Planner
Public Transport Development
==========================

So, the options are to either wait and see if they improve it themselves, or try to scrape the data, it seems. I tend to mostly walk rather than use the bus, myself, so I wonder about the effort involved...

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