Transport for West Midlands – Transit Hub
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is the UK’s third largest public transportation authority. The Authority is responsible for a region encompassing the major cities of Birmingham and Coventry, with a population of 2.6 million people and delivers 326 million passenger journeys a year.
The Authority faces major disruption to its transit network over the coming years as it upgrades the transit infrastructure in Birmingham City to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and develops the stations for Phase 1 of the High Speed (HS2) train line, with services due to start in 2026.
To improve customer experience and increase public transit usage, TfWM recognises the need to provide accurate passenger information when and where travellers need it. Schedule and real-time data for multiple modes of transportation (Bus, Tram, Rail) needs to be delivered to journey planning applications, websites and third-party developers as well as to TfWM’s 1,800 real-time information on-street displays at bus and tram stops and major interchanges.
Delivering this data in an accurate and consistent manner is challenging. There are more than 30 bus operators, six train operators as well as a tram operator running services within the Authority. They use many different systems each providing data in different forms and formats, at different frequencies and with varying levels of accuracy. This data needs to be aggregated, improved and then made available to downstream systems in a consistent format.
While larger operators have systems that track vehicle positions and provide real-time passenger information, not all smaller bus operators in the region have such systems. To increase the coverage of real-time information, TfWM has started a project supporting roll-out of real-time data from these smaller operators. This initiative requires the vehicle location information provided by individual buses to be aggregated and transformed into reliable arrival time predictions.
TfWM engaged Ito World to deliver an Ito Transit Hub solution that provides a single source of truth from the many data sources available in the region. The Ito Transit Hub is a complete platform for managing passenger information. The Hub provides a comprehensive view of public transit services in the region powering passenger information systems and journey planning applications.
The Hub ingests schedule and real-time data from different operators for different modes of transportation and deals with the heterogeneous data formats from many source systems. As data is ingested into the Hub it is processed to improve accuracy. A two-part improvement strategy employs sophisticated algorithms and automated processes as well as interventions by seasoned transit professionals to make improvements that algorithms cannot.
Additional processes add further value to the data, such as taking vehicle position feeds and using sophisticated algorithms to derive journey prognosis and predicted arrival times. New data is constantly ingested by the Hub as it becomes available and is automatically processed, forming an accurate and always up-to- date model of the entire public transit system.
This model provides the Hub’s single source of truth and is made available through a range of passenger facing applications. Custom data exports bring the data into the most popular journey planning apps such as Google Maps, Apple Maps and CityMapper. To support innovation within the developer community, the Hub provides a developer API, inspired by the tried and tested TfL schema, allowing third-party developers to quickly and easily access data and services for the region. The API has proven so useful that TfWM now use it internally to provide data to some of their own systems.
Finally, Ito World has worked closely with the hardware suppliers of the on-street real-time information systems to ensure the same, consistent and accurate data is displayed at bus stops and interchanges throughout the region.
Using the Ito Transit Hub solution enabled TfWM to quickly ingest, consolidate and improve the multiple heterogeneous data feeds; calculating predicted arrival times where necessary. The Hub provides a single source of truth of the entire public transit system.
Consistent high-quality passenger information is now delivered through a range of channels including journey planning applications provided by Google, Apple, and CityMapper along with the TfWM website and on-street real-time signage. The data is also available for third-party developers to include in their applications. Passengers now receive the same information whenever and wherever they view it.
The Ito Transit Hub is powering select TfWM internal systems and is allowing TfWM to support smaller bus operators by converting vehicle location information into real-time passenger information, including arrival time predictions.
“TfWM have been very impressed by Ito World. They combine technical excellence with a highly consultative and responsive approach to projects. In particular, we like the fact that they care about the data from a customer perspective and do not just deliver a data transformation service. Their quality and speed of response is excellent. Ito World are an important enabling partner for TfWM.”
Chris Lane – TfWM