The UK government has announced new funding for a platform that will enable app developers to make use of location information about buses in order to improve public transportation services, particularly in rural areas.
The UK’s Buses Minister, Nusrat Ghani, has announced £4m (US$5.2m) of funding for a platform that will provide real-time location information about services, giving greater certainty to passengers about when their bus will arrive.
The platform enables app developers to use information from GPS trackers, which are already fitted to 97% of UK buses. This will provide a service that is already available in some major towns and cities, and will give people in other areas across the country, including rural and remote areas, the ability to plan journeys more easily.
Research shows that one of the barriers to young people using buses is not having information readily available on their smartphones, but with fares and times at their fingertips, this will cut the uncertainty out of bus travel.
The drive toward improved and open data for bus services across England is the first step in cutting the barriers to introducing Mobility as a Service (MaaS), one-stop-ticketing products and applications, in a bid to increase usage. On-demand bus travel is already available in Liverpool, run by ArrivaClick. Routes are not fixed, but are determined by where passengers want to go within a corridor; in Liverpool, six luxury 15-seat buses take people in an area between the city center and John Lennon Airport. These services are driven by high quality data and computer-based algorithms.
The funding for the new platform builds on the government’s recently published ‘Future of mobility urban strategy’, which looks at how people will use transportation in the future and how new technology can make journeys better. The government is also investing in ways to speed up bus journeys. As part of the first tranche of the £2.5bn (US$3.2bn) Transforming Cities Fund, Derby and Nottingham, the North East, Portsmouth and Southampton will see the deployment of bus priority traffic lights to speed up trips to the city centers.
The transit priority systems (TPS) aim to help unlock productivity and help the economies in these areas to thrive. The new bus open data regulations are being implemented as part of the Bus Services Act, which gives local authorities additional powers to partner with bus operators and shape services in their areas to deliver improvements to passengers.
“People expect to turn up to a bus stop knowing when their next service will arrive, particularly in rural areas,” explained Ghani. “We’re investing in systems to make it easier for people to find out where their bus is, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. This will save the time people waste waiting, give more people certainty over services and help increase passenger numbers. It could help revolutionize bus travel and move us one step closer to Mobility as a Service and on-demand public transport systems.”