Committee urged to back info provision response for West Yorkshire bus users
13 September 2018
Next week's meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee will be asked to back a call for more accessible information and open data around bus services.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is seeking views on ways to provide bus users with better improve information on the route and direction of services, upcoming stops and where diversions start or end.
Transport of choice
In its draft response, the Combined Authority agrees that like the DfT it wants to see buses become the transport of choice for local journeys, used by passengers who have confidence in services on which they can travel comfortably, safely and with confidence.
It also backs the DfT's proposals that all bus passengers should be able to take advantage of on-board information. This includes confirming people are on the right bus and tells them where they are on the route with stop details so they know when to get off, which is already happening on a growing number of West Yorkshire routes.
The Combined Authority's response acknowledges the need that some disabled people may need specific information systems and extra time to act upon the information provided. It cites the Moovit app, which is already being used by some visually impaired people. It also highlights that information provided must also be accessible to people using wheelchairs who, when in a designated wheelchair space may be facing backwards and, therefore, potentially away from some visual displays.
Although analysis shows that over 60% of people accessing the Combined Authority's Metro travel information website at www.wymetro.com are now doing so from a mobile device, the Combined Authority makes clear that bus users should not be expected to buy or own smart devices to be able to access journey information.
This means the information being provided through on-bus systems which, the Combined Authority response points out, mean bus operators facing the financial cost of retro-fitting their vehicles with the required equipment. This cost, it says, could be offset as the DfT suggests by advertising on visual displays. However the Combined Authority maintains that audio information should be advertisement-free.
Failing to provid passengers with information about diversions could reduce passengers' confidence in service the Combined Authority response warns.
Almost 22,000 people already follow the Combined Authority's @MetroTravelNews Twitter account set up to provide people with up-to-the-minute journey information including disruptions and delays.
Reliable travel information
Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee said: "We have always appreciated the value of reliable travel information to passengers while they are on the move and on board buses and trains. This is why we have introduced services such as the yournextbus real-time service which people use over 4.6 million times per month to access up-to-the-minute information about when their bus will arrive.
"And it's the reason we provide travel updates seven days a week to our 21,000-plus followers on Twitter.
"However people have told us that information once they are on the bus is helpful, particularly if they are travelling on a new route and don't know when to get off.
"Providing this kind of information could give more people the confidence to travel by bus and I hope my Transport Committee colleagues will back the recommendations in our response to the DfT."
On open data, the DfT wants to make bus operators would be responsible for publishing route and timetable information and date in a standard XML format by the end of 2019.
The Combined Authority already uses service registrations provided by operators in this format to produce online and printed timetables, information displays at West Yorkshire's 14,000 bus stops, the yournextbus real-time service, and online journey planners. It also releases this data as part of the Traveline National Data Set (TNDS) which already used by a number of customer-focused journey planning apps.
In its response to the DfT, the Combined Authority supports the publication of this open data but makes clear that the cost of its publication should not be borne by bus users and council tax payers. The Combined Authority also supports making fares data available in this way and says it will help people make travel decisions. It hopes that in turn this will attract more bus passengers and will lead to simpler fares structures.
The response also supports publication of data showing levels of bus punctuality which, the report says, is an issue the Combined Authority is tackling with the county's major bus operators through the Bus18 initiative.
Cllr Groves added: "Access to data on bus services is vital to us being able to meet our commitment to provide accurate information to public transport across West Yorkshire."
"This response makes clear the value of the data to us and its potential to and supporting our aim of attracting more people onto buses and trains by being published in a standard, open format."