#TravelHack2 - That's the ticket to fare'er data
Whether it's the dreaded second album syndrome or the anticipated sequel to a blockbuster film, it's fare to say there will always be an added pressure on the follow-up to a successful project. Considering that the first #TravelHack was such a success, it meant that the next instalment, #TravelHack2 - Fare enough, had some pretty big shoes to fill. Now admittedly, for every Empire Strikes Back there is a Grease 2, for every Nevermind there's a Fairweather Johnson. Therefore, to ensure that #TravelHack2 was bigger and better than its predecessor, the team at ODI Leeds and the project's collaborators - TfN and Traveline - worked tirelessly to produce an event which focussed on fares data and how this can be best presented to customers.
The newly renovated 3rd floor of Munro House played host to more than 70 delegates throughout the day; these consisted of representatives from governmental departments, local authorities, national transport operators, globally recognised consultants and top-class developers and coders. Not only had #TravelHack2 managed to successfully get an array of important people into the same room, it quickly became apparent that people were singing from the same song sheet. When asked why they were here, a pattern began to emerge; comments such as, "to learn and to solve problems", "to exchange knowledge", "to find collaborative solutions" and "to shape the future" showed that the event had the potential to make a real difference.
After a quick welcome from the ODI Leeds founder, Paul Connell, and TfN's Richard Mason, the Lightning Talks followed, setting the scene for the day. First up was Nic Cary, formerly of DfT, who highlighted just how increasingly dependent transport is on data-driven technology. It was very much a case of 'the more data the better', however for this to become meaningful the data needs to be clean and usable; transport data - especially that relating to bus transportation - should be standardised, made understandable and published. This was followed up by a few quick words from Sherri Davies, currently of DfT, who gave an overview of the imminent draft regulations for the Bus Services Act which will look to place the responsibilities of providing and maintaining data on operators and local authorities. Louise Coward from Transport Focus - an independent transport watchdog - gave a thought-provoking presentation on consumer priorities and, interestingly, the levels of transport confusion that exists for young travellers. It was important that #TravelHack2 included representatives from transport operators, therefore Geoff Lomax's talk, representing Transdev, was a welcome inclusion. Geoff was in agreement that the customers access to fare information isn't currently good enough but, perhaps most importantly, it was clear that the operators want to rectify this. The next two talks were delivered by faces well known to ODI Leeds, our very own Tom Forth and Amy Evans. Tom's visualisation of transport journeys was mesmerising, showing the sort of innovative outputs that can be achieved when data is made openly available. Amy's TicketQuest presentation personalised proceedings, using real world stories to emphasise the importance of what #TravelHack2 is trying to achieve. The lightning talks were rounded off by Kevin Roderick and Tansy Appleby from Traveline Cymru, who discussed their methods for creating a GTFS fares database, outlining the successes and some of the difficulties that they've come across.
After what was a whirlwind start there was a break for coffee, before the focus moved back to #TravelHack2 and one of the key reasons why people had gathered; the data. The session opened with an overview of the joint Fares Project between TfN and Traveline - focussed on collaboration and innovation - which is looking to standardise fares across the north, making it an open and available resource. The embrace of OpenData will be at the heart of TfN - a data driven organisation - with the development of a draft TfN OpenData Policy that makes a real statement of intent to be 'open by default' where possible. Before the break for lunch the delegates were also introduced to the data that had been made available for #TravelHack2; a total of 6 datasets had been made openly available - which can be found on Data Mill North - while additional datasets were made available for use during the session. The #TravelHack2 delegates now had the data to match their skillsets, all that remained was the impending breakout sessions for the creation of actual prototypes. Once lunch was consumed of course...