Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Live Undergound Train Map

with 4 comments

Ok this is just a bit of transit fan geekery – at least it is for now – I am sure that we can turn it into a debate about what we should be doing here.

I learned from the Guardian that

you can now see a fascinating animated Google Map (requires Javascript) showing where London Underground trains are – live. Built by Matthew Somerville of MySociety at Science Hack Day over the weekend, it uses the new Transport for London API (via the London Datastore) – combining the train predictions service plus “a bit of maths and magic..

It is far from perfect – indeed one of the fun things is watching one of the “trains” whizz up a street that has no underground route underneath it. If that is your idea of fun.

It is all due to the new “open” architecture – in this case an API. Which I only know about because I use an application that tracks my flickr photos using their API (whatever that is).

One (outside) developer I’ve spoken to says that for years TfL has been “a black box that the Greater London Authority pours money into which generates outputs, but nobody can see inside”.

It looks like that is changing, though, and one has to say that the efforts of Emer Coleman, head of London’s Data Store have been instrumental in getting TfL to open up its data in this way.

Now that sounds familiar. Firstly because the City of Vancouver has a commitment to open data – Andrea Reimer is the name that pops into my mind when I think about this but I am sure there are staff involved too. Secondly, transportation data was supposed to have become not only much more plentiful but also more accessible under Translink. That’s when I picked up that usage of “architecture”: there was one guy who seemed to talk about nothing else back in the day. Except, of course, nothing seems to have come from it. There is more data around now – passenger counters, GPS on buses and even the Alcatel system that tracks trains on SkyTrain and the Canada Line. And “real time” displays at some stations and stops – and even on board the new Mark II trains I am told. But nothing like this yet – as far as I know.

And my cell phone resolutely refuses to look up the next bus scheduled data by bus stop number – let alone the realtime stuff

Richmond Centre BLine  disabled=

Richmond Centre B Line Real Time Display Disabled

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. I’m kind of disappointed that the various depots aren’t populated with yellow dots at 5:00 AM London Time.

    (Thanks for the link Stephen, very geeky, Mum would have loved it)

    Dave 2

    June 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  2. @Stephen

    “And my cell phone resolutely refuses to look up the next bus scheduled data by bus stop number – let alone the real time stuff”

    I use telus as my provider for my cell phone. Which is a fairly basic cheap crap model. And I’ve yet to have a problem not getting the next bus text. In fact I’ve found it usually works where as the website seems to freeze on a scheduled time. It could be 7pm and the schedule is reading around 4pm.

    So I wonder if it is your provider?

    Paul C

    June 23, 2010 at 2:35 am

  3. I like the trains that go through Hyde Park on their way between Paddington and Kensington High Street. Ooops 🙂


    June 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

  4. Haha great to see some people interested in a Vancouver version of this live map. A (better) similar service has been online for all of the Swiss train system (SBB) for a few years now. Translink has made public this data (why not, it is publicly funded, they get this in the US) and the Vancouver city as well as many other cities claim to have open map data available. It is available but I wouldn’t call it “open” as the license is pretty restrictive on usage.. Regardless, I am working on a side project to have a very similar site which will show “live” (scheduled) buses moving around Vancouver and sky trains. Should be cool!


    June 25, 2010 at 11:02 pm

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