Data and Transport:
Open House?

By opening up their data to application developers and programmers, transport organisations can both improve the travel experience for customers. accurate information for multimodal trips, journey planning, and service status updates in real time… despite the potential, the process appears far from straightforward in practice. BtoB Rail explores further, with an eye on the French experience in particular.

In France, open data on mobility has been largely driven by local authorities, such as Rennes Métropole, which took a first step in 2009/10 by requesting operator Keolis, which runs the city buses and metro, to make its transport data available to the widest possible audience.

RATP, the public transport operator for Ile-de-France (Paris and its region) has data.ratp.fr, to ‘enable third parties, notably developers and entrepreneurs, to use certain data pertaining to its public transport activity, so that they may imagine new ways of using and enhancing the value of open data, to create new and ever more innovative mobile services and applications.’

Government moves in this direction include transport.data.gouv.fr a public data platform accessible to all, designed to ‘improve passenger information throughout France thanks to open data’. Also, measures in the draft mobility orientation bill (projet de loi d’orientation des mobilités, LOM), due to be passed in 2019, include measures for opening up transport data to help stimulate new services.

“Revolution” and “power for fuelling innovation”

“Open data is a real revolution in today’s society,” said Jean-Marc Zulesi, member of the French Parliament. Why? “Because by providing it, local authorities are helping optimise transport services, which in turn saves them money. Plus, offering what people want and satisfying their needs is bound to please.”

He sees open data as a kind of fuel for powering innovation. “I am convinced it will lead to a brighter future and better-informed territorial development, which is good for the image of the regions in France – both for visitors and people living and working there, or those considering a move. Open data enables offers like Trainline or MaaS, which are helping provide solutions for everyday travel.”

At the same time, he warned against setting up open data schemes for major cities only, insisting on the importance of paying attention to less dense networks [limited framework of routes, services] too. “This is vital if we are to mitigate the digital divide across France and provide mobility for the benefit of all. Right now, there are mobility gaps that we can fill in [i.e. by providing services to meet needs] by harnessing open data.”