The Department for Transport has said that it is ‘bringing buses into the digital age’ with the launch of its Bus Open Data Service, which it hopes will help improve transparency around bus times, routes and fares for passengers.
The government said that the lack of bus travel information - or accurate information - is impacting the number of journeys taken on buses each year. This could mean that people are choosing alternative methods of transport that are worse for the environment, more expensive and have an impact on traffic.
The latest annual bus statistics demonstrated that whilst bus patronage figures have continued to fall year on year, the decline is tailing off. In areas where bus operators and local authorities already have invested in making more information available to passengers, such as in West Midlands, the trend has been reversed with year on year patronage growth and 7.8 million journeys being reported.
The Bus Open Data Service will be followed by new regulations that will mean bus operators will be legally required to provide timetable data by the end of 2020 and fare, ticket and location data by 2021.
According to the Department, the new regulations will mean a better deal for bus passengers, as “providing live location data boosts passenger confidence and providing greater transparency across different operators will help keep fares down following years of fares increasing beyond the rate of inflation”.
Buses Minister, Baroness Vere, said:
We know the value of our buses - responsible for around 12 million trips a day, they take us on the everyday journeys that make up our lives.
But we want to create a golden age for our buses, and we can only do this if passengers find them easy to use and understand how much journeys will cost.
This pioneering project will bring transparency to passengers, boosting bus use and helping the sector thrive – just one example of how government is harnessing technology to make journeys across the UK greener, easier, safer and more reliable.
Now that the Bus Open Data Service is live, developers will be able to add the information via the service to existing apps or develop new products for passengers.
In 2020 the project will standardise information from operators and legally mandate the open publication of data. The government plans to work with technology companies, app developers and information providers to help promote a range of products designed to make the most of the data and help all bus users stay informed.
Full data on fares and locations will be available from 2021, but which point it is expected that a range of apps will be on the market. The government hopes that passengers will find it easier to manage their journeys from start to finish from their smartphones.
The government has made a number of bus-related announcements, including the new low fare, high frequency ‘Superbus’ networks and contactless payments on every city bus.
The Department for Transport states that the package, worth £220 in the first year, will see many cuts to services reversed.
Commenting on the Bus Open Data Service, Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google said:
Open transport data is valuable both in providing real time information to passengers and enabling a broader ecosystem of app developers and service providers that will allow future innovative solutions to the challenges of urban mobility.