The New Zealand Transport Agency, the combined Land Transport New Zealand and Transit New Zealand, has taken a step that may be considered bold by other government agencies. It has released real-time traffic data for free to third-party developers, so they can build applications for the public.
In order to get traffic and road information out to road users, the NZTA has developed a website that provides third parties and the developer community with the tools to create applications using NZTA’s data. The organisation realised it could leverage experts in the field to make its data accessible, instead of trying to do it all in-house, says Deidre Hills, NZTA project manager.
NZTA enlisted the help of Auckland digital studio Marker to manage the project. Marker came up with the idea of building a developer website that could scale from one developer, working out of his or her spare room, to big corporations wanting to use information from NZTA, says Jon Beattie, managing director of Marker.
Making its data available for free was an “extremely big step” for the NZTA, says Hills. The organisation is just starting to come to grips with the model of not charging for data, she says.
“It is valuable information, but at the end of the day, our job is to get the information out to users as fast and as accurately as we can,” she says.
NZTA’s decision to make its data available for free was a forward-looking one, says Beattie. There is no real value for NZTA to hang on to the data, he says. But leveraging the skills of third-party developers, adding value to the data, is valuable to road users.
The website went live in July and, so far, 140 developers have signed up, says Beattie. Applications rolled out to date include programs from the AA, MetService, and a few iPhone applications, which are available on the iTunes App store, he says.
NZTA has conducted a survey with the registered developers to get a feel for what developers and consumers want, and how the service can be improved, says Hills.
“Phase two” of the site, planned for the beginning of next year, will see improvements to the site, and the addition of services, for example an estimated journey time-service, she says. NZTA plans to roll out more webcams, as users tend to prefer seeing for themselves, rather than reading information, she adds. The use of webcams have been popular with the iPhone apps developed so far.
NZTA information available to developers includes state highway road and traffic information, webcam coverage in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, planned road works, unplanned road closures and delays, maps and holiday traffic information, says Hills.