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Bike Share London

Waiting for the Data

An interesting article on Transport for London (TfL) data has appeared on the London Data Store blog from Anthony Browne – the Greater London Authority’s Policy Director for Economic Development. The article announces the return of Trackernet, the live feed of tube train locations.

TfL must be commended for working on restoring this feed and making it freely availably, particularly as their national counterparts, National Rail, are apparently busy locking down departure board data and insisting on being paid a fee every time someone queries departure information for the (publically subsidised) trains through an app! TfL has made the feed available as part of a redesign and enhancement of their developer area, which also includes a sample (5%) of Oyster card journey data for November last year, potentially very interesting for visualising and analysing how London moves. The enhancements also include moving Trackernet to the cloud so that it scales well with heavy usage.

However, the article is incorrect as it says “…I wouldn’t have found a free docking station in Shoreditch without the bike hire apps that are made possible (at no cost to the public) by the simple expediency of TfL publishing the cycle data. ”

Unfortunately, the cycle data published by TfL wouldn’t have helped – the TfL data available through the developer area/APIs simply is a static list of docking stations, with locations and maximum capacities. The near-live information, used by the apps in order to show full/free status, can only be obtained by regularly “scraping” the HTML source code from the official Google map mashup of the scheme, on the TfL website, or using a third-party API that does the same, such as the excellent BorisAPI. Should TfL decide to redesign their map, there is every chance the coding changes would break these unofficial feeds, simultaneously breaking all the apps, and other cycle visualisations, such as my own. The developer community still awaits an official API for the near-live information, such as is available in Rennes.

On the topic of forthcoming data from TfL, I am also eagerly awaiting the release of the first one million bike share journeys, that has been promised as the result of a freedom of information request.

London is certainly going forwards, as quickly as the rest of the country is going backwards, in terms of opening up public travel data, but we’re not there yet!

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