We as a nation are striving to make public transport more convenient for passengers. We want to get more people using the bus, as our cities and towns get more congested with cars. So, how can we do this? How can we convince car users to leave their keys at home and take the bus instead? Talking about green credentials and sustainability only goes so far when the majority of non-bus users simply do not appreciate how simple and easy bus travel can be. Some recent research by Transport Focus showed that the top priorities for bus users are a good and reliable network with buses running more often and being on-time at stops.
Launched earlier this year, the Bus Open Data Service requires operators to share their data, such as timetables, locations and fares which will enable passengers to plan their routes and simplify paying for their bus journeys by understanding fare costs.
The majority of bus operators are already sharing timetables and route information with their passengers, and there is a significant amount of bus data readily available. At a recent Department for Transport (DfT) Open Data Forum, we were pleased to see that there is an acceptance that any system that is put in place needs to be all-embracing for operators, both large and small, to be successful.
With this in mind, we wanted to know what Ticketer can do to help. So with a deep breath, we went hunting (with a microscope) for the brains of the Ticketer team to gain some insight around Open Data and the wider implications it has.
How is the Open Data Service going to impact operators?
All operators will now need to adhere to the Open Data regulations as outlined by the Department of Transport. This requires them to provide data on their services, timetables, fares and vehicle locations.
Most operators already provide the majority of this information via the likes of Traveline, their own apps, and local authority traffic management systems via one or more SIRI feeds. However, the additional requirement to expose fare information proves a little more complex. It’s a significant task due to the variety and types of tickets that exist.
Operators will be impacted in different ways depending on their existing infrastructure, resource and capability and Ticketer are delighted to say that we are ready to help any operators who need it to meet their Open Data obligations.
Could this scheme benefit operators, and if so, how?
The DfT have undertaken this exercise to address the ongoing decline in the use of buses in the UK. The scheme itself is aimed more at providing benefit to passengers, not operators directly. Many operators already share data regarding their services via alternative means so it seems unlikely that operators will see any additional benefit with this scheme. However, we are confident that the removal of some of the uncertainty surrounding bus travel should help operators to grow their market and attract new passengers whilst encouraging existing passengers to travel more.
What role does Ticketer play in this scheme?
The Ticketer team want to ensure that our operators don’t need to worry about supporting the new data format for fares and ticketing or the detail of maintaining a hosted data service. The good news is that much of the data that operators need to share is already in the Ticketer System. From the services themselves, to the timetables for those operators taking advantage of the Ticketer Schedule Adherence feature as well as the vehicle locations which are captured via the inbuilt GPS unit within the Electronic Ticketing Machine (ETM). Plus, Ticketer has already been providing a means to map the fare stage data to physical bus stops which means that Ticketer is uniquely positioned, already holding all the key information that operators are required to make open.
With all this relevant data that operators need to share already held in the Ticketer System, it seems more effective for us to provide the integration to the DfT system directly so that operators do not have to seek alternative solutions from other suppliers. Put simply, Ticketer can be the one-stop shop for all the operator’s Open Data needs.
What will the impact be on smaller operators?
It is possible that some smaller operators may not have all the technical knowledge or resource to easily meet these data provision obligations. The DfT are offering a number of services and tools to all operators to make the process as straight-forward as possible and there will be a free hosting service for operators with 40 or less services. In addition, several Local Transport Authorities are setting up services to help transfer the data on behalf of their operators. All Ticketer operators can have Ticketer prepare and supply their data on their behalf, if they prefer.
The key considerations are:
- Data preparation – TransXChange and CEN NeTEx Standard file formats are required which some operators may not be able to easily generate.
- Data hosting – the data must be accessible by the BODS portal at regular intervals in order to meet the DfT obligations.
By working directly with the DfT to provide a direct integration between the Ticketer System and the DfT Open Data System, operators do not need to look any further than their ticketing supplier in order to meet the requirements of the Act.
Lastly, we’ve already covered fare information, but how will operators be able to provide location data when this comes into effect?
The vast majority of Ticketer operators are already providing vehicle location data to at least one system, typically the local authority traffic management system. If that operator also already appears on a travel app, then that same location data is already being provided to passengers. Providing this same data to the DfT’s system is another feed from the same data set and so Ticketer can provide this data as we already are for hundreds of operators.
If you would like more information on how Ticketer can help you with the Bus Open Data Service, please contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Transport Focus spring 2019 survey