Getting closer to real-time bus information

Public transport in NSW is looking tantalisingly close to moving out of the dark ages with the announcement that the Government will finally be giving customers the power to locate buses in real-time. And this comes just after the Opal charged-card readers have started appearing on ferry wharfs and train stations, whatever next?

Of course it’s not as simple as the feed of bus information just being opened up to whomever wants to make use of it.

At the moment there’s the popular but expensive and awkward SMS system and there was a brief moment of openness a couple of years ago which demonstrated that real-time apps are possible. That was followed by a couple of years of promises. Now, finally Transport is saying:

We’re calling for the best and brightest App developers to display their credentials going head-to-head to develop the best products for customers. A suite of Apps will be developed that will give the customer a real time feed to where their buses are on the route, and inform them of how far away they are.

On November 3 there will be an “App Hothouse” giving potential developers the chance to become one of the select few who can move forward with access to the real-time data. Developers wanting to become involved must apply by 5pm today.

Eventually a final suite of apps will be released to the market for customers to download and use throughout their journey. The first stage of real-time information for buses covers Inner City Sydney Buses (regions 6 -9) excluding Newcastle and Western Sydney routes. Later in 2013, it will be expanded to outer metropolitan areas.

As a frequent bus user I can only say this is great news. Interestingly it strikes me that Transport NSW must be satisfied that enough of their buses are running on time that they wont be inundated with complaints when apps are released. This will be interesting.

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