The internet provides an excellent opportunity to present information and to allow users to interact with it. Many transport authorities and operators have taken advantage of this to connect with current and potential travellers and help inform their decision making on transport journey options. The growth of internet-based journey planners has sometimes been at the expense of other forms of communication.
The key benefits of internet journey planners include the ability to present, what may be a complicated transport network, in a simple, user-focused way. When this is well implemented, it can break down barriers to travel, but to do so it is essential that the information presented is accurate and correctly maintained. This is often a significant challenge and should not be underestimated.
Increasingly much of the underlying mapping data, may be provided as an open data source, reducing the cost of maintenance of this part of the service.
Journey planners on the internet can be categorised into two main types: single-mode journey planning and multi-mode journey planning.
Single mode journey planning includea:
Road based journey planners - such the AA Route Planner for the UK and Europe enable a road journey by car to be planned from door-to-door, with a list of printable instructions and directions - and maps. Additional features such as the approximate cost of fuel can be determined for any given route; and many include station to station rail journey planning - for example Deutschebahn in Germany and SBB in Switzerland. Information on fares, ability to transport bicycles, availability of food and disabled access may also be available. Some companies are also trialling applications which let users choose their service - based on current or predicted level of over-crowding (See Real-Time Journey Information). These enable certain the users to select their own preferences - whether it is to enable selection of an emptier train for a journey, or planning a road journey to avoid low bridges. (See Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations)
Traffic information websites, may not provide a direct journey planning function, but they may provide access to information to support journey planning - such as information on known current congestion, roadworks and road surface condition.
Multi-modal journey planning has been explored by many public transport authorities as a tool for promoting modal shift. There are also a growing number of private providers who use data provided by public authorities to develop value added journey planners.
Most multi-modal journey planners allow journeys to be planned for road transport, walking, cycling, or public transport with walking links integrated to show routes between public transport stops or stations. There are very few journey planners that fully integrate all modes and can provide advice on mixed-mode journeys - such as car routes linked to public transport options.
One of the most ambitious attempts to provide multi-modal journey planning on a large-scale is the European Enhanced WiseTrip project for international journey planning. At city level, there have been, or are, a wide range of choices of journey planners developed and provided by private and public operators - ranging from the (now discontinued) UK national journey planner, Transport Direct, to regional or city-based services such as CityMapper for London and New York). Many provide real-time and en-route services.
Phone-based journey planning pre-dates the Internet. Services can be divided into public transport advice and road condition advice.
Generally, public transport phone journey planning requires the public to ring and speak to an advisor to generate a personalised journey plan. Road condition advice can be obtained from many road authorities via an automated phone system - with the 511 services in the US being the most well known. Automated traffic information phone services often present the same information that is also available on traffic information websites.
Road based telephone traffic information services can be easily automated - and in some cases, the user is provided with an automated menu system to search for traffic information on specific roads. Other authorities may provide a general customer care line, which can provide traffic and incident information alongside other services - for example, the Traffic Scotland Traffic Customer Care Line. Once again, internet-based services has tended to reduce the usage and value of these services - for example Highways Englandhas discontinued provision of its Automated Traffic Information Phone Line, providing the information instead via its website, mobile applications and social media feeds.
A whole series of ITS applications are necessary for internet journey planners, traffic information websites and phone services. Jurney planners will collect information from a variety of sources - some static, some dynamic. It is important to ensure that each information element is:
Single-mode road based journey planners require:
Road based journey planners may be able to accommodate live and planned traffic event information and show the impact of this information on journey plans - by displaying them or using them to inform estimated travel times.
There are various international standards associated with traffic information data exchange. Traffic and event data may be available from multiple sources - and it needs to be considered at the outset how this data will be incorporated into the service. Traffic data exchange within Europe is often distributed using the Datex2 standard. (See ITS Standards) The USA has a National Systems Architecture Framework (See ITS Architecture) and associated data exchange standards. To integrate data on traffic delay and events, consistent definitions of event, their consequences and delays need to be applied. Many of these parameters are defined in Datex2 and other standards. There are numerous technologies used to collect road traffic data and information - which are used as enabliung technologies to inform the development of journey planner applications (See Enabling Technologies). Network and event data should always be geo-referenced using appropriate international geographic definitions - generally, WGS84 or Latitude/Longitude metrics.
Multi-modal journey planners require - generally, in addition to the functions for single mode road journey planners:
Public transport schedule information needs to be sourced from the public transport operators, and may be added manually or be electronically imported into the journey planning software. In Europe, Transmodel is the European Standard reference data model for public transport. Data exchange standards generally exist for public transport schedule information transmission - such as VDV-452 in Germany and TranXchange in the UK. The public transport access node definitions are also often standardised - for example IFOPT, NETEX. (See ITS Standards)
Real time data can also be integrated into multi-modal journey planners. In Europe this real-time public transport data exchange is defined in the SIRI- XML standard.
There are key parameters which impact on out-turn journey plans. These need to be given careful consideration (including their impact on the user interface design) - for example, the system may limit the number of changes to a journey, or this may be a user-defined parameter.
It is also critical that, when specifying and designing a journey planner, that the potential data sources to be integrated are considered at the outset - together with the implications of processing the resulting data (especially where real-time information is included).
When developing a journey planner it is worth bearing in mind that, in the future, other journey planners may wish to query your planner. Data exchange standards for journey planning requests exist - including Journeyweb, Delfi and EU Spirit. (See ITS Standards)
The key trends in journey plannner design are the amalgamation of more sources of data and the desire to make these more open and integrated with cycling journey planners and carbon calculators. Many authorities are also publishing data for third parties to integarte in their own applications. There are increasing moves to incorporate real-time information on road traffic and public transport information with planned and unplanned events, into all types of journey planners.
The European Union’s 7th Framework Research project ‘WISETRIP’ has been trialling integrated pan-European public transport journey planning. Other areas of research include more detailed development work on accessible journey planning - Transport for London has commissioned work from the Loughborough University of Technology into this.
In the UK, the NAPTAN data standard defines the public transport stop. For each bus stop, multiple pieces of information must be collected to ensure logical journeys can be presented later on. This should include accessibility information and interchange times - within, and where applicable between, transport modes. Hierarchies of information need to be planned carefully and consideration given to adoption of an architecture - for example, Transmodel, the European Reference Data Model for Public Transport.