Northernlands 2 - Bus open data


The team behind the new bus open data service share some insight about the benefits to data publishers/consumers and how they made it happen, both technically and politically


This transcript comes from the captions associated with the video above. It is "as spoken".

Hi everyone, welcome to Northern lands 2 and our mobility in

modern city sessions. We're really excited because we're going to

talk about buses. My name is Paul Connell. I'm founder of

ODI Leeds, so I guess it's my fault a lot of this stuff and

although we've got a lot to learn from our North Sea neighbors in

the Netherlands around mobility, one thing we've always

focused on at ODI Leeds is transport data, and we're really

pleased to have four people who are working on one of our

favorite issues which are buses.

How you get everyone on the bus and it's going to be - it's

not flying cars are going to fix things is going to be buses.


We've not got five people we did have four, this is amazing.

I'd like them all to introduce themselves.

If we start with you Amy.

Yeah hi, I'm Amy Bridge. I'm ito world's project manager.

Waheed? My name's Waheed I'm basically leading the UX team

user research for the bus open data project on behalf of KPMG.

Thanks. Lisa? My name's Lisa I'm a DfT policy adviser for

passenger experience at the bus open data service.

Great stuff Richard, tell us who you are. Hello Richard

Mason, I work for TfN I'm the information strategy manager

and TfN are heavily involved with the bus open data

program, particularly on the fares and ticket workstream.

Great and TfN are sponsors of ODI Leeds and we've done lots of great

work with them before working with DfT you might

have seen "all aboard the data bus" work that we've done over

last couple of years.

So to set the scene, we've got a visualization that's been put

together by the team. It's about 2 minutes 10 seconds long. So if

you bear with us over to the visualization and editing suite.

Welcome back, hopefully you understand a little bit more

about what the progress of the programme is, an what buses mean

and what data means, and I'm now going to ask Lisa to talk us

through what does open data aim to do what it's going to mean

for us all and where we are now 'cause were at some exciting points

in legislation and regulations at the moment.

OK, so the bus open data service is a new digital service from

DfT that aims to transform the delivery of best passenger

information across England and improve journeys for the

travelling public. So this is being delivered in conjunction

with our partners KPMG, Ito World and ourselves. So why are

we doing this? So each year 4.3

billion bus journeys are taken in this country, and half of

those, 51%, are in London with the remaining 49% across the rest of

the country. So we think this is definitely been driven by TfL's

track record in making transport information open,

which they have done since 2007. They've made all of their Bus and

Transport Network data freely available through the London

data store. So two recent 2017 studies by Deloitte

explore the value of TFL's data and found that open data

was being used by 8200 app developers to power 600 apps

which are now used by 42% of Londoners. We've sort of

seen same progress within Transport West Midlands who've

also heavily invested in providing public transport data

in their area, and they've seen recent growth year-on-year growth

of 7.8 million journeys.

You know against the backdrop of a decline in bus

passenger journeys elsewhere.

So why do we need bus open data?

We are moving to a more on-demand convenient transport system.

Open data will transform how we travel by providing on demand

services and real time journey planners and we want to empower

consumers. We want people to

choose buses. And not just passengers in London. We want bus

passengers across the country to have up to the minute

information about services at

their fingertips. So we do think this will have real profound

change to bus use in the UK.

OK, So where are we now? So how will this happen? So on the 28th

of January, we launched the bus open data service so bus

operators can go on there and start uploading their data ahead

of the deadlines. So these deadlines are being prescribed

by regulations which have just

passed both Houses of Parliament, House of

Commons and the House of Lords have debated the regulations and

both have agreed that this is something that we know we need

to do so this will come

into force. So the scope of the regulation encompasses

timetables, fares, vehicle location data, and

historic punctuality data. This will be a phased approach with

routes and timetables to come into effect from the 31st

December 2020 and further requirements are published:

basic fares data and location data from effect on 7th of

January 2021 and then following this there will be complex

fares data from the 7th January 2023.

This will be complemented as well by punctuality data.

So yeah.


As we know the regulations only tell half the

story about what's happening.

This would mean that 100% of bus data will be collected

across the country, but really the rest of the story

is the program itself.

Fantastic. OK, we've also got Waheed from KPMG who's

working with Ito World and DfT on the project. So to

tell us how it works.

Absolutely thanks Paul. So as Lisa mentioned this year in

the project itself, we're at a point where we've got the

service of the timetables up and ready already. So from January

onwards this year bus operators can actually go actually start

putting in the data itself. We're currently working on the

AVL as well as the fares. AVL is the location data itself. I've

actually got some slides for you guys to actually show you how

the user journey.

Course you are you're a consultant. You've always got slides. Over to you.

Cool, brilliant, so I hope you guys can see so in terms of

since the kind of start of the project couple of years ago

a couple years and months ago now we've conducted over 200 plus

interviews across the industry and this is from the upstream of

people who provide open data as well as people in the downstream

who would kind of use the open data as well. And really what

we're trying to do is obviously build a container itself so data

goes in. Someone puts it in and data goes out just like your bank

account, you know you input money and you take it out. It's

just that it's a different person in this instance itself. So

we're really trying to refine the process of the upstream as

well as a downstream talk to users. So based on that it's

going to show you a couple of the basic user journeys that

we're going to expect to hit. Essentially, whenever the

legislation kicks in. So this is the upstream flow of exactly

how a publisher would do what a

publisher would do. So this is putting the data into the box

container itself. So as you can see Cameron the can-do as a

retail manager at a medium size bus operating company. So he

basically has a bus army company as an employee. So what he would

do is basically when BODS kicks in he would receive the

invitation of BODS. Obviously read the guidelines. Read the

implementation, read everything that's there and then what he

would do is basically create his timetable and so this is only

for a timetable data just for

this instance. What do you do is essentially use software like a

nice scheduling software already there across the

industry, so any of these scheduling software so he would

use that to actually create that TransXChange data, which is an

open data format that we'll use. After that what he will do is

basically sign onto BODS and really kind of upload that data

that he has essentially. There is also the next step, which is

he can review the data quality, so we've done.

Some work in terms of doing like 20 different observations, and

these are all free, so once a operator basically uploads the

bus data, they can see some essential observations of things

that they can improve in the data. So that insures the real

quality in the pipeline for the data itself. For people who are

consuming like programmers, and app developers and that kind of

stuff. So after he reviews the data quality report it goes

ahead and fully publishes that dataset essentially. At this

point it becomes fully published and the data consumers can

actually see that as well. You know on that side. And obviously

he can view the datasets and do this journey again, essentially

for new buses that he has and would run essentially.

This is in terms of the consumer flow and this is

consumer... we mean are basically researchers, are programmers, are

app developers and all that sort of people. So the real kind of

meat of BODS is to increase innovation in the industry

through the opening of data essentially. So here Ian the

innovator, we put him, and he's a PhD researcher at a University

itself. So what he does is he essentially is working on a

specific project. And he searches for a bus open data he

finds essentially the service that there is something there,

but he is more interested in specifically looking at Bristol,

because that's his research thesis essentially. So what he

does is goes on and searches and finds a specific Bristol

datasets. After that that he downloads the TransXChange

file, which is a TXT file. What he would do then is

uses like a R programming tool to translate that TXT file into

tables. Tabulated form that he actually needs for his research.

So for example, if it's trying to correlate climate change

emissions data with the buses in Bristol, he can do that here. In

that case. And if he actually finds his dataset quite

interesting and likes to use it further in the future, what he

does is subscribe to a specific data set. So whenever there is a

change to the dataset he has it, he knows it. And then in the

future you can use that further as well if he has any feedback

about the data. If there's something that's not, you know

some things that's odd or can be improved. He can provide the

feedback to the publisher who published the data in the 1st

place, so that's the kind of core principle in terms of

how researchers and innovators would use it in the future.

That's the vision and Dayna here is another use case of data

consumer who is an app developer specifically, so she

has a business kind of function to what he does, so she searches

for the data. She goes to GitHub community, and the clients that

basically, hey, there's something called bus open data

that's there. Which is a fully open data set, so she goes on to

BODS, does an exploration activity and really finds that

this is something she can use. So what she does is she creates

an account and signs up for the API that we provide, and it's

like an open API that anyone can sign up to and it would have

basically the bus location data, the static timetables data as

well as a static fares data as well for each of these. So data

can really... you start using the API and we have like a standard

swagger documentation so any developer across the world can

really pick it up and start using the API, which

has both real time as well as the kind of static data.

So that's in a nutshell, the kind of journeys in a nutshell. So

obviously like I told you before that, there's something about

these tools of creating timetables and creating the

static data, and we're working with our partners at Transport

for the North, TFN. Specifically on fares. So there are developing

quite a interesting fare table tool for the industry

which is going to output the netX format for fares, so

that's in a nutshell. I'm going to head over to Richard Mason

now who's going to tell us a bit more about essentially

what's going on with the fares in TFN. Over to Richard.

Thanks Waheed and thanks for the ODI for the opportunity to tell

you a little more about our work at Transport for the North, which is

supporting the DfT bus open data program. So very early on TfN

recognized that fares information was a key gap in the

public transport information landscape, so we decided to

develop a fares data build tool. So this tool is supporting bus

operators, especially the small and medium size operators to

meet the requirement to provide fares information as part of the

Bus Services Act 2017 regulation.

The aim of the TfN fares data build tool is to

make it simple and easy for operators and local authorities

should they provide a data agent service on behalf of those

operators. So the idea is this will help them to create

fares data and publish this in the netX format which is the

new fares data standard in the UK. Like the DfT bus open data

digital service our fares tool is being developed to government

digital standards which will

ensure that it is as easy to use as registering and renewing

your car road tax. We're working hard in collaboration with the

DfT to stimulate excitement about this new fares data set,

which our tool will enable.

We are thinking not only about publication, but also about how

the data will be used and how that will get into the hands of

passengers. So we are working with developers to ensure it

will be integrated into many travel planning apps and

websites as possible. Once the fares information is out

there, accelerated by the bus open data program, we believe it

will stimulate further digital and ticketing innovation, but

ultimately providing information on how much it costs to travel

by bus is giving passengers what they need to make an

informed travel choice. It's certainly an exciting time.

Brilliant. Thanks so much Richard.

I'd like to gove over to Amy Bridge who's going to talk to

us about how is this is actually coming together, what

it means and also let's have a glimpse of the future because

we love buses at ODI Leeds. This is going to be

transformational in terms of how people use and access buses

but it's also, I think, it is a bigger piece around how the

world of data and software is smashing into the maybe more

established world to transport and infrastructure.

Yeah, thanks very much Paul. So as you say the bus open

data service is incredibly exciting. It is initially going

to drive huge benefits for both passengers and for operators.

Passenger apps are only as good as the data that powers them,

and by aggregating data on timetables, vehicle location

data and data on fares for every single bus journey in England and

by making this openly available from the same repository

passengers will get better access to this comprehensive,

high quality data through innovative apps and that in turn

will drive growth in ridership and in operator revenue. But

really, that's just the starting point for BODS, and the

benefits that it will deliver. Because beyond this, what BODS

will also do is over time it will generate a comprehensive,

standardised, high-quality national data set for buses.

Something that, as far as we're aware, is the very first time

that a country has done this. And once you have this sort of

data, you can start to build up an incredibly powerful transit

data model over a long period of time, and on top of that you can

layer other national datasets, for example, other transport

mode data, socio-economic data, and also environmental data, and

collectively, you have a hugely powerful tool once you have all

of that that can influence

and inform long-term governance and policy decision

making in a way that's never been possible before. So whilst

the immediate impacts of BODS are incredibly

exciting, the longer term impacts will be even more as

you say, transformational and it

really is a world leading service. So yeah, very exciting

times for the bus open data

programme. And it is and I'll maybe ask Amy and

maybe some others to jump in

here because we talk about being radically open at ODI

Leeds. People sort of get what we're talking about, but this

really is a radically open project in that anybody would be

able to build a model from the data that's published. Anybody

would be able to use their own model to challenge someone else's model.

And we should get much better models as we move forward and

that move from rather than trusting experts to tell us

what's happening and what might happen in the future with the

model, we can actually have real data which can tell us over the

last five years we've done this.

We intervened in this area and built a bus lane, and it improved

our connectivity by X so we can actually measure the

interventions and measure the impact of interventions. Again,

much better bang for our buck. in terms of that world. So maybe

I won't ask DfT what it means in terms of political, but maybe

ask you, Amy, for your view

about how that's going to change the way in which we make

decisions about transport infrastructure.

Yeah, absolutely. So as you say,

by opening up that data in a way that it currently isn't, you

know a standardised and open as it could be. What it does really is

to drive transparency with the data about buses. And as you

say, it opens it up to literally anybody. So anybody can use the

bus open data service to pull the data that it holds and that's

something that so far has been

very difficult to do because of the heterogeneous nature of the

data types around buses, and so it will be the first time that

it really is open to the masses and by driving increased

transparency about the data and allowing anybody to use that

data and to put it into different models and be able to

analyze that data, it really will drive more innovative

analysis and consumer applications to be able to use

buses as a as a really important mode for the future, and if you

look at something like rail where they've had open data for

quite some time now, you can see that there's a much better

continuity of information between apps. So when a customer

goes into different apps they tend to see the same information

and at the moment that something that customers have said they

don't get as much of with buses. So if they go into one app it

says one thing in a different app it might say something

different, and so by increasing the transparency and by

standardising the information

that's out it really drives the trust that passengers can

have in buses, and as we all know, trust in the data is

absolutely key for passengers to use those modes and to start to

switch from car journeys into rail journeys. But also buses

and other transit modes.

Thanks you. That's amazing and we're looking

forward to watching the progress of this and then joining in

where we can in the future. So what I'd like to do is say thank

you to all of our speakers. Really exciting work that we're

all doing, and what I guess as it goes through the

regulations, go through parliament this week. The

program is on track. It's a real success story, so thank you

very much. See you soon. Cheers.

  • Waheedur Rahman Nabeel

    Consultant (Public Sector), KPMG UK

    Waheedur Rahman Nabeel
    © Waheedur Rahman Nabeel 2020

    Waheed is a Consultant for KPMG’s public sector data analytics practise focusing on implementing technology delivery projects for central and local government bodies in the UK.

    He is currently leading the User Experience (UX) and Research team for the Beta workstreams of the Bus Open Data (BODS) project delivered on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) in the UK. The BODS project aims to open up high quality bus data across England to researchers, innovators, app developers, policy makers and the general public.

  • Amy Bridge

    Project Manager, Ito World

    Amy Bridge
    © Amy Bridge 2020

    Amy is a Project Manager at Ito World, the tech and transit data specialists behind the Department for Transport's Bus Open Data Service (BODS). Ito World has worked with Department for Transport since on the BODS programme since 2018, alongside KPMG.

    Ito World solves transportation challenges across the globe for millions of travellers every day, by delivering real-time transit data feeds to journey planners and a platform for transit authorities and operators. Our mission is to deliver data that is as close to the real-life experience of the traveller as possible. With offices in London and Cambridge, we serve clients from all over the world, such as Apple, Google, TomTom, Arriva, and Go-Ahead.

  • Richard Mason

    Information Strategy Manager, Transport for the North

    Richard Mason
    © Richard Mason 2020

    Richard has worked in the public transport customer information space since September 2004, starting out at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) in various roles from data acquisition and management through to leading the transformation of raw operator data into meaningful customer information across print, web and digital.

    Through his role at Transport for the North (TfN), Richard sits on the DfT Bus Open Data programme board – helping to shape national policy with partners from the transport industry. His current role at TfN is a strategic position to drive the adoption of a consistent customer information strategy across the North, working alongside 20 Local Transport Authorities and the tech sector. In parallel, Richard also leads on the fares data build tool project by TfN and engagement with open data developers across the UK to influence and encourage them to adopt TfN and pan Northern datasets.


Nothernlands 2 is a collaboration between ODI Leeds and The Kingdom of the Netherlands, the start of activity to create, support, and amplify the cultural links between The Netherlands and the North of England. It is with their generous and vigourous support, and the support of other energetic organisations, that Northernlands can be delivered.

  • Kingdom of the Netherlands