Transport transparency floods NSW Govt info request

Public show interest for public transport info over other government statistics

Calls for live transport information have dominated the NSW Government’s public consultation on possible Web and mobile applications a fortnight since its launch.

As part of the NSW State Plan initiative, the government has sought to gauge interest on key topics under what it calls ‘Live Information’. The first question - “What government information would you like to access via a web based or mobile phone application?” - was posted on 24 November and has since garnered 10 comments from visitors.

Of those comments, nine ask for some form of real-time information for train, bus and ferry timetables providing locations and arrival times for particular destinations, available either on the Web or through an iPhone app. The tenth comment asks for an iPhone app detailing bike paths in the state, as well as the ability to give the public a vote on bills before NSW Parliament.

“I want to see live train status,” one comment reads. “I’m sick of getting to the station and seeing delays or the train not stopping at Mctonaldtown [sic] Station. Its too unreliable.”

Another pointed to existing services in Canada and UK as examples of possible applications.

Third-party app developer, Nick Maher, told Computerworld Australia the government had made significant progress in making such public transport information readily accessible, with the launch of the XML-based Transport Data Exchange (TDX) database.

"When I started [CityRail timetable app] TripView I was scraping data from 131500, but I've since moved over to the TDX data, and it makes it much easier to keep up to date," he said.

"It would be great to see real-time data as well - my understanding is that they are working on it."

The question is the latest of several attempts by the government to gauge interest in the types of data to be made public, and the form in which it appears. A request form is available on the NSW Government’s centralised data repository but has since been used as a reactive gauge of what data should be released, largely from the Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW Health and RailCorp. A similar feature is planned for the federal government’s own repository.

The live discussion portion of the NSW State Plan is accompanied by a collection of Web apps providing performance statistics for major government services, such as data for train arrivals and CityRail’s key performance indicators as well as live traffic in Sydney from the Roads and Traffic Authority.

The greater release of transport information has led some to speculate that third-party developers, such as Maher and Google, could better integrate information into existing applications, rather than through apps developed by the government itself.

Maher said there was room for both first and third-party developers in the Gov 2.0 environment.

"It makes sense for the government to maintain their own app as a baseline but if the data is open to third-party developers, they might find new and interesting ways to use it," he said.

According to the website, the state plan aims to keep the NSW Government accountable on 44 of the state’s priorities.

“It is a tool the community can use to judge whether the Government is achieving the promised results,” the website reads.

The release of the data coincides with the NSW Auditor-General’s 2010 report to Parliament, in which he slammed government departments - and particularly Transport NSW - for project cost blowouts amounting to at least $41.4 million.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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