Hacking Public Transport - Matera and beyond

Some of you may remember work on public transport @mstn and I did in Matera. While we’ve put a lot of effort into it, we never properly finished that endeavor. Lately Marco had some time again to dedicate toward this work, and with small help from me and @Alberto we managed to take it few steps further. As a result you can find first version of GTFS feed on matera open data portal. We also deployed prove of concept visualization of bus lines in Matera. Marco then submitted this work to the Contest Open-Matera and it received 2 out of 3 main prizes. This prize includes inconvenient ~1000 euro, which comes of no use for me and Marco also would prefer not to simply accept.

In last couple of weeks, we made two attempts to get together in same place and work for few days together on this project. Both time various circumstances contributed to not making it happen. On my side among other reasons, an extra effort and time consumed by hitchhiking my way to Trento, plus possible overhead of arranging food. Marco both times generously offered accommodation and workspace at the place he lives! IMO we both might have tendency to abuse our own generosity. Not only offering our time and talents for community work, but also taking all the effort on ourselves, to secure all the direct needs which our capacity to do the particular work depends on.

Yesterday we had short call and decided to propose co-organizing development sprint in Matera, possibly 1-2 weeks early in January. We hope that Open Data Matera community can keep euro they offered for the prices of mentioned Open-Matera Contest, and instead in unMonasterian spirit secure our accommodation, food, travel and working space :slight_smile:

Personally I would really like that we all stay clear that we don’t do exchange/barter here! As I tried to explain in conversation on fb with @Matthias

“I don’t work with concept of paying! One can enable me to work on something, for example by securing food (a dependency of me having capacity to work on something). I offer my contributions for the very outcome of them and for social impact of that outcome, not to get food or something unrelated to the contribution itself.”

Already one more person engaged in that work via github, and we hope that we can do this dev sprint together, at least 3 people. I see it in a way non-humanitarian to work alone on projects aiming for common benefit, especially when world population reaches 7bln people…

We will share more details of our agenda soon. One of the most interesting  for me possibilities relates to replicability of all the work we’ve done so far. We develop toolkit which integrates with Open Street Map and which people can use in any other place. When it comes to Matera, after finishing our work on bus lines there, we can help people in other cities near by to get started with mapping public transport there. I hope it could take viral approach and they would later help people from yet another city get up and running, that time without any further involvement from me or Marco (yay!) Miccolis agency itself serves 16 cities in that region, we could also evaluate challenge of mapping connections between cities!

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Well done!

…and thank you for sharing this, @elf_Pavlik, I had not gotten around to doing it myself.

My help was indeed very small: I am no developer. So I took on the most humble task, that of manually reformatting Miccolis’s rather messy timetables (with more exceptions than rules, buses with the same numbers but doing different rounds etc.) into a cleanly formatted file, that the code could handle to predict but locations at any given time of the day. There is enough of the (un)Monk in me that I almost enjoy the mortification; and as an open data activist, I welcomed the chance of going head to head with the awful messiness of data in the real world.

Since Elf and @mstn seem to agree that the money should be used to create more digital commons in the transport area, Edgeryders will be happy to help making that happen. We are willing and able to work with Matera’s open data manager @piersoft to make sure your sprint is, well, a “harmonious” hackathon. Congratulations again!


money should be used…

“Since Elf and @mstn seem to agree that the money should be used to create more digital commons in the transport area, …”

Sorry for very likely nit-picking here, but I would still like to rephrase it:

“elf agrees that, while we still fail to remove money completely from our equation, we can create more digital commons by taking temporary compromise and using money in such way …”

I stand corrected


Hoping the open solution wins!

Thank you for presenting your work. I like the live map for Matera buses … maps are intuitive in general, and with the little buses moving in there it could even become a more intuitive way of navigation than Google Maps’ etc. typical “list of steps” format. But I have no idea how so far …

For inspirations: I looked at the Moovit app. You know it? They claim to cover 400 cities already, incl. Matera. There are some nice features like “finding the least crowded line”, but unfortunately the platform is proprietary. So I, too, hope that your solution will go viral, and you be for them what OSM was for map data owners.

Glad to see that your collaborative coding time will now happen in Matera (well, hopefully), and that your basic needs can be covered locally there. For the future, I am still open for the “hacker care package” idea that we briefly explored. One box to make a hackathon harmonious :stuck_out_tongue:

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technical question

hey @elf_Pavlik

just a technical question, In order to get live data from the buses , did u install some kind of hardware or GPS or is it already found in Matera’s buses ?

am asking because I want to make a trial to map Cairo’s informal microbuses which have no specific maps and can sometimes switch routes, how can this be done in a cheap way?

and this for sure would have other challenges ( social and economic challenges ) but for the technical part it would be almost the same, right ?

am sure there is more english documentation for this project , any links ? :D:D


The positions of the buses are theoretical, derived from the timetables and the assumption that they run on time. We are hoping that this would attract enough attention that then GPS units would be installed. Typically bus drivers hate this, because it means tighter monitoring on their work.

With informal lines, though, there is no alternative to GPS data. On the upside, drivers probably do not mind, and actually welcome the potential extra business.

forgot that buses run on time !

for the informal microbuses , it needs more work if no cheap GPS ( I don’t think they would mind the “monitoring” as they are freelancers - working without a company or a “formal” boss ) , and it needs more benefits for the drivers in order to try install such stuff…

Adding GPS cheaply – hardware side

Your idea seems like a great opportunity for making an impact with open tech, and it would not be that much effort. Adding GPS hardware at least can be quite cheap. A proposal would be:

  1. Put an ordinary Android smartphone into the microbus. It can also simply be the driver's phone, or more reliably, a permanently installed phone with a permanent power supply.
  2. Put an app on the phone that logs GPS locations via a data connection. There are tons of these, some for tracking people, tracking ones phone and other purposes.
  3. GPS reception of a phone can be poor, esp. inside a car. To improve GPS reception and accuracy, use an external GPS receiver ("GPS mouse") that is externally mounted to the car. It should get a permanent power supply. Usually these connect via Bluetooth to the phone, and for that there are several apps: BlueGPS (open source) and Bluetooth GPS (freeware) for example. I tested the latter one with my receiver, works well.

could work

just saw the comment

I would rather prefer not to use the drivers’ phone. as they change shifts and any way it’s a very personal data . but adding a cheap phone could work.

well I can have a trial location and test with some bus lines… will need to put some time into it. couple of friends are working on mobility at the moment and would be a good fit for their studies.

will keep u updated. and also will need to ask some more “technical” questions later.

Way to go!

This is really cool @Hazem. I hope it works out, let us know.

Inspiration from Nairobi’s matatu system

Seemingly there are ways to create sweet public transport maps from an informal microbus system. The matatu system mapping could be an inspiration. Just came across it, sharing just in case it’s useful.

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Yesterday i met Miccolis.

he was very angry for this map and GTFS.

Mayor of Matera railed him!


I don’t get it. Why was he angry? (Also notice: there is a gentleman called Miccolis!)

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 +15 http://www.miccolis-spa.it/la-tua-citta

#realtime #crowdsource reporting vehicles position https://github.com/unmonastery/untransit/issues/18

Transit Simulator ( open source , on github )

Reminds me of the Transit Simulator :


see code and HowTo

on GitHub : https://github.com/vasile/transit-map

Lausanne :

" This map is a simulation based on the timetables of the TL Lausanne public transport network. More information about this project you can find on Github or you can simply contact me. "

Live applications using this project

Swiss railways(SBB) Romanian railways(CFR) Lausanne (TL) Brașov (RAT) Grenoble (TAG) Genève (TPG)


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Quick update

Hi all, thanks for your interest/comments.

Just a quick update about my availability for January. I am not able to pick some dates for January now. I am waiting for an answer I should have by the end of this week. Then elf and I will make a plan for the dev sprint together with Matera Municipality. Next week I’ll have a video call with them and I’ll introduce this topic to them.

@piersoft “our” gtfs are still rough and Miccolis can help us to improve them. I do not see it as a competition. Our skills and weaknesses are complementary. :slight_smile:

OT: I like elf’s idea of “enabling”. As Karl Marx said, traditional historical accounts of pre-capitalist societies are often Robinsonades (from Robinson Crusoe), namely “fiction”. In the sense that they are projections of the present to the past. Smurfs villages where division of labor, equal exchanges and barter (instead of money) are given as natural. I think (but my only source are my grandmother’s tales) the economy of a village in the Alps, for instance, was based on the concept of enabling as expressed by elf (as far I understood his words). And “enabling” was the source of a slow innovation (Stuart Kauffman uses a similar argument in biology), very different in nature by the explosive and disruptive innovation rate in capitalism.


talking with @piersoft on twitter about workshop in Matera during dev sprint we plan with @mstn

i proposed awarding participants with Open Badges, since i also started participating in W3C Credentials Community Group where we work on generic open credentials together with people from Badge Alliance. i remember open badges not finding appreciation among edgeryders but i would actually prefer in this case issuing them from http://www.opentechschool.org/

OpenData Day

February 21st is the OpenData Day 2015. I wonder if we should organize the dev sprint around this date. Just asking because it is a month later.

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Your call

… and @elf_Pavlik’s of course. You are the stars of this story: it cannot be done without you. So, I recommend doing it when it suits you best.

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