Following news earlier this year that the Imagine Team were refused access to ACTION Buses’ network data in order to develop a smartphone application for bus users, it seems that they may have been beaten to the goal.
Busness Time, whilst not a smartphone app, is a fully-functional website, meaning it can be accessed via a traditional computer or viewed from any mobile phone which features internet capabilities.
The developer has told ACT Bus that the site started as a proof of concept in early 2010 and was released at BarCamp Canberra 2011 last month. The release covered the journey up to that point and also examined some broader visions of further development that could be facilitated through more community engagement from ACTION and Territory and Municipal Services.
The talk, targeted towards public servants, iterated that by engaging with the local community, you can externalise the cost of innovation, which has been identified as part of the Government 2.0 vision by the current Federal Government.
If ACTION and TAMS were to release their data, both the community and ACTION could work together to build an accurate reflection of bus stop locations. Some very dedicated Canberrans have already mapped every bus stop in their suburbs on OpenStreetMap and the developer of Busness Time was able to harness that information.
The Busness Time website has been optimised for use on mobile devices as well as for accessibility for the visually impaired. It aims to filter bus route information by time and location and makes the overall Canberra bus system much easier for patrons to understand. The site is open source meaning that other developers could reuse the data or build their own application. Feedback on the site functions and data accuracy is welcomed.
The features are impressive. Users can find their next bus by selecting from lists of routes, bus stops, street names, suburbs and destinations. GPS functionality even allows users to find their nearest bus stop. Once a route is selected, the arrival time at each stop along that route is listed for the next available service. This greatly expands on the ACTION timetables which list timings for major ‘timing point’ bus stops only.
The journey planner feature, notable by its absence from the ACTION website, is also included here. Users enter where they are going to and from and are able to specify date and time. Seconds later, the site offers up several options and cleverly it does not limit itself to buses, also suggesting walking routes to nearby stops.
Key messages and service alerts can also be delivered to patrons through the site. There is scope to incorporate tweets from an ACTION Buses account into the site to advise patrons of breakdowns and canceled services. The ability to check your MyWay smartcard balance via the site would be a welcome inclusion for many.
ACTION Bus information being made available via Google was first mentioned back in June 2009 and has to date not eventuated. With more and more people owning smartphones, the development of this website is great news for Canberra bus passengers who have been waiting for ACTION to produce a similar product.
The developer of this site is to be commended for their efforts. If ACTION and TAMS were able to firstly ensure the accuracy of, and then release their route and timetabling data to developers, then the traveling public would be the big winners.
The website can be found here.