This week we have a guest post from Duncan Elder, an Associate with IBI Group and a specialist in transport data, spatial information and customer information systems.
In Part 4 of the series on the Unified API on this blog, Tim discussed TfL’s roads open data and gave guidance on how to build apps using this data. Having worked closely with TfL for some time now, this prompted me to expand upon Tim’s post with a look at a long-standing issue around this kind of data – standardisation.
Whilst it is widely agreed that data held by transport agencies should be made open, there remains a question over how easily this open data can be exchanged and used by various parties. UK public transport agencies have been rather ahead of the curve here, as the exchange of train, bus and tube information is underpinned by the use of standard approaches for describing data, such as exists with NAPTAN and TransXchange, and the equivalents in Europe; Transmodel, IFOPT and NeTex.
This means that in the UK we are used to seeing widely available public transport journey planners and information from a range of different providers, all of which would be unlikely to exist without a standardised approach from the various sources of open data which power these tools.
However, when it comes to roads open data things are much more complex, with the data held by public bodies less centralised, the number of miles of roads much greater than rail, and the number of possible sources of roads data far greater. This includes an increase in the use of crowd-sourced data, in addition to existing sources of road information, which adds to the difficulty in establishing a standardised approach to data provision.