KMRL moves a step ahead, to open up transit data

First metro agency to offer info via apps for free use; facility available from Friday

Published - March 15, 2018 12:39 am IST - KOCHI

Come Friday, Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) will become the first metro agency in the country to open up its transit data like schedules, stops, routes, and fares for free use, re-use, and re-distribution.

While these data are already available on the KMRL website, they are now being converted into a machine-readable and globally-accepted transit data standard called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish, managing director, KMRL, termed the move an indication of the metro agency’s commitment towards more transparency, efficiency, and inclusiveness.

“The open data will benefit commuters, developers, researchers, scholars, and many more and ultimately will enable an environment conducive for better economic activity in the IT sector and improved usage of public transport. We will be opening up more transit data in the near future, so that there will be a better informed travel in the city of Kochi, like many of its global counterparts,” he said.

Vishal Ramprasad, senior project associate with World Resources Institute (WRI), the research organisation entrusted with the Open Transit Data (OTD) project of KMRL, said that the opening up of data would allow the start-up ecosystem to develop applications, not necessarily mobile apps, thus providing an opportunity to improve commuter experience, ridership and access to the Kochi metro.

“It will enable the market to identify the specific requirements of different commuter groups and build apps around them while ensuring integrity of data,” he added.

For instance, visually-challenged commuters require specific applications that provide information facilitating their travel.

To cite a global example, in the seven years since the Transport for London opened its data in 2007, as many as 362 apps were developed to cater to the requirements of 4 million commuters.

While a few mobile apps with travel planning capabilities based on metro data are already available, these applications are accessible only on smartphones, and the accuracy of data remains unverified.

“Open data facilitates developing text message-oriented information empowering low-income groups with either no access to smartphones or not familiar with mobile apps,” said Mr. Ramprasad.

To begin with, fixed data unlikely to undergo frequent changes will be opened up. Since the metro has a dedicated corridor unhindered by the vagaries of road or rail transport, it will serve as good as real-time data. A large set of data will be available under OTD once more metro routes are opened up and more stations become operational.

KMRL is now in the process of equipping itself to communicate any change in data, like that of fares and schedules, in the GTFS format through an appropriate interface to stave off the danger of the existing data becoming redundant.

Apart from improving commuter experience and access to the mode of transport concerned, transit data proves critical in other areas as well. For instance, there are applications across the world that rate the liveability of an area based on accessibility to transit options, calculate the accessibility to jobs and services and even generate real-time visualisations of public transport services.

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