The Bus Services Bill offers a once in a generational chance to fundamentally reform the way the bus sector is regulated in England. Simultaneously, Total Transport Pilots up and down the country have started to have tangible impacts in reducing inefficiencies in local transport networks. The provision for the mass release of operator data in the Bus Services Bill presents an opportunity for imaginative Total Transport initiatives to achieve transformational data led service integration.
At the moment there are 37 Total Transport Pilots which are broadly feasibility studies designed to enable local authorities to find the ways in which they can deliver integrated transport services in rural and isolated areas. IPPR have written a report on the capacity for Total Transport to radically change the way in which transport services are commissioned, you can read the report here.
We have written extensively on the Bus Services Bill and you can find our work on it; here, here, here, here and here. One of the measures laid out in the Bill to improve services is through mandating operators to release data on routes, timetables, punctuality and fares. The purpose of this measure is to encourage app developers to design products that enable bus users to better plan their journeys. Another consequence of this decision is that better data could also be a powerful tool for planning bus services.
With this amount of data it should be possible to more clearly see where there are inefficiencies in the bus network. Particularly where there is duplication of services and where there are no services at all. This could mean that it is much easier for community transport operators to plan services where they will have the most impact on alleviating isolation. In theory, local authorities should also have greater ability to model the impact of making cuts to bus services in a given area.
Upon taking office the Mayor of Los Angeles released huge swathes of data held by the City. Los Angeles Open Data allows users of the website to cross tabulate data on public services to better understand how services are funded but also to come up with innovative solutions to improve public services through the use of data. Looking at our own Bus Services Bill it would make an extremely interesting Total Transport Pilot for a local authority to use the new cache of data to model how integrating transport services has broader public service benefits. Through using bus operator data against measures of social deprivation it could be possible to better appreciate how transport contributes to furthering economic growth.
The ambition of Total Transport is to usher in seamless integrated transport in areas up and down the country. It is just possible that a new widespread availability of travel data could mean that local authorities have a much more sophisticated tool to achieve this aim.