GPS used to measure 350,000 bus stops throughout Britain
Transport Direct has mapped every bus stop in Britain so that users of its online journey planner can be provided with accurate bus times.
The government-funded body finished the mammoth task in the first quarter of this year when the last bus stop measurements were uploaded to the 11 regional transport information hubs.
Transport Direct paid the UK’s 141 local authorities to send inspectors to their bus stops to take measurements using GPS readers. The number of bus stops mapped by local authorities rose from 20,000 to 350,000.
Bus operators knew when their buses both started and finished their journeys, but they had not mapped when buses would arrive at bus stops. Without knowing exactly when the buses would arrive, online journey planners, such as Transport Direct, were unable to provide accurate times for buses.
Transport Direct needed each bus stop to be mapped to within a metre of its actual geographical location so that it could accurately plan walking times to bus stops, as well as the time it would take buses to reach each stop.
The government agency also holds 31 million addresses for both business and residential properties on its database. By knowing the geographical location of every bus stop, Transport Direct can enable users of its website to plan their journeys from their business or residential address, rather than from the nearest bus stop.
Each local authority passes the geographical information of the bus stops to one of 11 regional information hubs. The hubs are not-for-profit companies that are jointly owned by transport operators and local authorities.
Transport Direct has built XML interfaces between its own system and each of the 11 regional hubs. Six of the hubs run on software supplier AIM’s system , two on a system from German software supplier MDV, two on a system maintained by support services company Atkins and one on a proprietary system developed by the local authorities in Tyne and Wear.
Two further information hubs also have interfaces with the Transport Direct system: the Association of Train Operating Companies’ Fujitsu application, and an application that holds the arrival and departure times of every flight starting and finishing in the UK.
The next step for the agency is to introduce real-time transport information to its journey planner. Transport Direct’s chief executive, Nick Illsey, said, “The big step going forward is to fully integrate real-time information. The first thing will be that users will save their journey and they will get some alerts if something happens.”
Some UK cities are moving to real-time transport information for their bus fleets, and Transport for London is currently tendering for a mesh radio system, a form of wireless broadband.