Back in December of 2009, I wrote about Paul Clarke trying to solve the problem of where’s my train; that there must be a definitive, raw source of real-time (train) information and that
I assert that train operators know where their assets are; it would be irresponsible if they didn’t
Whilst the plethora of train operators that fragmented from the ashes of the old British Rail network haven’t answered this challenge yet, Transport for London has, opening up just such data as part of the London Datastore API. In today’s age of talented web mashup developers, if you release an API people will build things with it if the information is useful and interesting and that’s just what Matthew Somerville of MySociety did at the recent Science Hack Day … a (near) realtime map of the London Underground showing the movement of trains of all of the Tube lines. A screen grab wouldn’t do it justice and it takes a while to load, so a video grab might help here.
Coming down the escalators at Waterloo and want to know whether to head for the Bakerloo or the Northern Line to take you north of the river? Now you can tell which line has a northbound train closest to Waterloo.
Want to see just how close the gap is between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line really is? Now you can.
Of course, this doesn’t solve every problem …
- If you’re on the escalators at Waterloo how do you get 3G data coverage to view this mashup on your phone as Transport for London still haven’t manage to achieve cellular coverage underground, unlike Amsterdam, Berlin and other cities?
- The site will probably be the target of a tutting campaign from the Health and Safely police insisting that such a visualisation will cause people to run for the train and of course, they might trip and hurt themselves.
- If you’re at the top of the escalator and the train is in the station, now, right this very minute now, how do you get down to the platforms quickly?
Whilst I can’t answer the first two of these questions, this publicity stunt from Volkswagon at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station might just hold the solution for the third question … a slide!