Two transport applications – GM Bus Times and NextBus

Ric Roberts from Swirrl has saved me some typing (thanks, Ric!) by writing about two Greater Manchester transport related applications that have come out the Lovely Data hack days.

You should read Ric’s article for more details on the data and API that the applications use, but here’s a quick summary of them.

GM Bus Times

Developed by Ben Gibbs, GM Bus Times is a site that lets you quickly select a Greater Manchester bus route, shows the stops for that bus route on a map, and provides the times for when the next bus is due at a particular bus stop.

Chart showing screen shots from GM Bus Times

One thing in particular I like about the GM Bus Times site is that I can bookmark a web page that will give me the bus times for a specific bus service at a specific bus stop. Very useful for people like me who tend to get the same bus to work from the same stop.

Though the GM Bus Times site was developed quickly as part of the Lovely Data hack days, it does show how bus timetable information can be accessed in a more immediate way by building applications and sites that use open data that’s in machine-readable (and therefore “programmable”) formats, rather than static documents on a website.

I would love it if the GM Bus Times site could be optimised for mobile phones. 🙂


Developed by David Bamber, NextBus (open the link on a smartphone for best results!) is a mobile web app quickly developed to demonstrate how using location services on smartphones – Android phones, iPhone and the like – can help find bus stops near where you are right now and then tell you what buses are due.

Chart showing screen grabs from NextBus

Like GM Bus Times, NextBus shows an alternative way of accessing bus time information. By using open data and the capabilities of modern phones, you can quickly find out when your bus is due when you’re out and about.

Do you have any feedback on these apps or the ideas shown in them? Please leave a comment below or contact the developers directly.


Learn Linked Data

If you’re trying to get your head around what RDF, SPARQL and Linked Data is (like me!) then the website Learn Linked Data is a great place to start.

Open Data Communities website and Indices of Multiple Deprivation

Ric Roberts from Swirrl is here at the second Lovely Data hack day.

Ric and his colleague Bill were at the last hack day with their linked data version of the Transport for Greater Manchester Bus timetable data, which is available via the Linked Manchester website. You can read more about this work on the Swirrl website here. (I’ll post an entry about some of the applications developed from that data in a bit.)

Ric has told me about the work they have been doing with the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Open Data Communities website.

The site provides Linked Data access to the Index of Multiple Deprivation datasets, including a range of useful information covering population, income, education, health, environment and availability of key community facilities for both 2007 and 2010.

The site lets you browse and search the data and to see at a glance what data is available, but its key purpose is to make the data easily accessible for others to re-use.

You can access and re-use the data via their RESTful HTTP API, or via SPARQL, and get the data in a variety of formats (such as XML, JSON) to extract it in the way that’s useful for you.

Swirrl hope that people will use this data in a variety of ways and combine it with information from other sources.

A couple of blog posts explaining more are here:

On the environment and health theme the relevant indicators are explained in detail here:

Ric has summarised this…

Health: based on a combination of indicators that compare actual outcome with expected outcome for that age group and sex. Underlying indicators include premature death (number of years of life lost vs expected/average – so some of the scores are negative if an area does better than the average), numbers of people receiving disability benefits, emergency admissions to hospital, mental health.

Environment: combination of poor condition housing, houses without central heating, air quality and road traffic accidents involving injury to peds and cyclists.

Since there are also indicators about income, education etc – there are lots of opportunities for looking at correlations, mashing up with other datasets to see what kinds of effects environment and housing might have on other stuff – or that might lead to bad environment and housing.

The ten most deprived areas for health are all in the North West, several within Greater Manchester: Rochdale is top of the league. (Manchester not so bad on the environment scores, at least it’s not in the top 10).

Lovely Data #2 data sets

We’re on the third floor of Four Piccadilly Place at the FutureEverything 2011 and the second Lovely Data hack day is go.

Today is around Environment, Health and Transport data. Below is some of the data that you can find on Data GM to work with. You should search the Data GM site yourself to find others.


If you want access to more Indices of Multiple Deprivation data, read this post about the Open Data Communities website.

Health related

Transport related

Also see this blog post from the first Lovely Data hack day about transport related data sets.

Environment related

Lovely Data #2 – Environment, Health and Transport hack day @ FutureEverything 2011, 14 May 2011

Following the first successful transport hack day in April, FutureEverything is running the second in the series of MDDA’s sponsored Lovely Data open data hack days.

This event will be focusing on investigating data and building applications around Environment, Health and also Transport data again so that ideas developed from the first hack day can be continued.

Where and when?

The hack day will be taking place as part of the FutureEverything 2011 festival at 4 Piccadilly Place near Manchester Piccadilly Train Station. Go to the visitor information page on the FutureEverything website for transport links.

The hack day will start around 9.30am and carry on throughout the day until around 6pm.

Who’s it for?

If you are a developer, designer, artist, journalist or just interested what lies beneath the huge datasets that chart Greater Manchester’s health and environment then this is for you.

We’d like you to share your ideas, play with the data, build cool applications that show off your skills, and give feedback on how public data can be improved.

You’ll learn more about Data GM – the open data catalogue for Greater Manchester – and give feedback on how it can be improved.

You don’t need to be a super geek to get something out of the day (though super geeks are always welcome!). If you’ve got a great idea you can team up with someone who’s got some coding skills.

What you’ll need to bring

Ideas and an interest in finding out more!

A computer you can create, design and / or code stuff on.

Not a programmer? Bring a computer or mobile anyway and you can help with research on the day or testing the websites and things that people make from your ideas.

Some projectors will be available, but please bring your own VGA adapter if you want connect.

What we’ll bring

Coffee, connectivity, a cool venue at the heart of the FutureEverything Festival and maybe some pizza.

Register to attend

The event is free to attend, but registering on the Eventbrite the page for the hack day will help us figure out how many people plan to attend.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or email Alan Holding at MDDA.

Lovely Data is funded by the Smart-IP project. The Smart-IP project will develop open innovation pilots in Manchester, Ghent, Cologne, Bologna and Oulu around the themes of Smart Environments, Smart Engagement and Smart Mobility. In Manchester we will be developing new services and products around the first two of these themes, and will be engaging with the local developer community and with citizens to ensure they can benefit the widest community. The project is led by Manchester City Council and part-funded by the European Union’s Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

More ideas

During the intro to the day some more ideas for apps and sites were talked about, including these…

  • A “shake your phone” app that would suggest random places to visit in Manchester and provide details of how to get there using public transport.
  • An app that sends you an alert when the last train or bus is about the leave so you have time to get to the station.
  • A service that tells you if a bus coming along is accessible for wheelchair users, people with prams / baby buggies, etc.

I’ll put up more ideas here as I get to talk to people about them.

Hacking in progress

The Lovely Data Transport Hack Day is up and running.

Attendees at the Lovely Data Transport Hack Day

Around 20 people are here already working on hacks and projects.