torsdag 4. juni 2009

Map interface for bus routes

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Ever found yourself struggling to figure out the bus routes when you are planning to get from A to B?

Obscure bus stop names are almost a de-facto standard, at least in Norway - and quite often they do not have a name (or any other identifier) at all. Even if you know the bus stop name from where you are going to take the bus and the destination, you don’t always know where these stops are.

In Trondheim a natural language system has been developed called BussTUC (Buss The Understanding Computer) or more commonly “Bus Oracle”. Here you can write, in natural language, a question about bus routes. I.e. “When is the next bus from busStopA to busStopB?” and similar. The answer is quite good, and is correct according to the current routes.

However, the problem occurs when you don’t know the bus stop name - but you know where you want to travel, or approximately where you want to travel.

To better fit this Atle and I developed a prototype of a map interface to BussTUC. In essence it is a map where you can click where you are and where you want to go. The system then finds the nearest bus stops to this and suggest the closest, all represented visually in the map. While using the map interface to input where you want to go, suggestions of relevant query to BussTUC are suggested - and a link to submit the query is provided.

The system currently knows about almost all bus stops provided by Team Trafikk and works quite well.

Extensions to the system are:

  • Enable for mobile devices - primarily location-enabled devices
  • Add the spatial route-data suggested by BussTUC in the map (i.e. draw the actual route)
  • Speed up BussTUC or develop own route suggestion system based solely on spatial information

The system is developed in PHP, JavaScript with a PostGIS enabled database. Source code is available by contacting me or Atle. Give it a try and give some feedback!

Screenshot of BussTUC map interface

Screenshot of BussTUC map interface

The system is (unfortunately) not affiliated with Team Trafikk and is a prototype not designed to scale very good.

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