Last week I was in Norway attending the annual InformNorden Conference, which is an event which covers the issues and impacts of ICT on Public Transport in Northern Europe. To some extent you might imagine this represents a culture clash between largely conservative public sector organisations administrating transport networks and technology providers.
This is actually not the case, and in the Nordic region in particular, public transport makes excellent use of technology; from journey planning to card based payment systems like London’s Oyster. In most cities it is common to see electronic displays with arrival times of buses/trams subway trains etc.
This has, in most cities, had a noticeable impact on the use of public transport, with increased passenger numbers following the introduction of the technology.
My interest in the conference was in talking to these public transport operators to get access to their schedule information to include in Google Transit, a project to bring routing using public transport to users of Google applications, like Google Maps and Google Maps for Mobile.
This complements the operators own web-sites by providing schedule information alongside other points of interest data and imagery, users can always click through to the operators own web-sites for real time information and service updates.
Technology like this really can make a big difference in terms of making public transport a more acceptable solution for many, knowing a bus will be at you local bus stop in 6 minutes might just stop you jumping in the car to make the same journey. Or knowing that there is a tram stop 1 minute away from the cinema and that there is a tram arriving there 15 minutes before the movie.
Imagine your commute to work downloading tunes to your new iPod Touch via wifi using the pilot system running in Helsinki at the moment. This system which by providing broadband internet access on a proportion of the bus and tram fleet in Helsinki, means that it is possible to track these buses and trams in real time using a Google Maps application – very cool.
Following along with the transport technology theme, this post was submitted from the 13:00 London-Edinburgh GNER train service somewhere outside Peterborough, using the onboard wifi service.