FixMyTransport uses a lot of public transport data in the interests of giving people an intuitive interface for reporting their problems with public transport. This kind of data can change pretty quickly though, as bus stops get moved, bus routes are closed or change hands, and mistakes in the original data get fixed.
Since we started work on FixMyTransport, the datasets it uses have become more freely available, and more frequently updated. This is great news as it makes the task of building and running a site like ours (and a myriad of other useful transport apps) a lot easier. So for the last few months I’ve been working on allowing us to update our transport data with the latest versions of public transport data on a regular basis. This can be fairly unglamorous work, and is one of those jobs where you know you’ve succeeded when you rollout months of work and no one notices. I think of it as a bit like learning to do the trick where you pull out the tablecloth from a heavily laden table without disturbing any of the plates and cups. Hopefully. But this morning, there was a glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the things I’ve been working on is being able to produce lists of the changes that we’ve made to the data in order to make the site work, and in response to feedback from members of the public – so, for example, back in August last year, someone wrote to let us know that they couldn’t find Dore & Totley station on the site. Turns out it was there, but using the old name Dore. We corrected that in our data, and last week, that change was in the first set of feedback I added to the NaPTAN dataset of bus stops and stations using ITO World’s nifty data quality service.
This morning, I noticed that some of our feedback (including the tweak to Dore & Totley) has already made it into the latest release of NaPTAN, available under an open license at http://data.gov.uk/dataset/naptan. That’s a great turnaround time, it means we won’t have to keep a separate copy of those changes in our database any more, and everyone else who uses the data benefits too. Closing that loop feels like a small, but significant, bit of progress.
Credit: Image by Austin Kleon, used with thanks under the Creative Commons licence.