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David Volpe is senior product manager for HERE transit, a combined team that handles everything from contributing to deals with local transit operators to how routes appear in our apps and services.
We asked him to explain the latest improvements to coverage and the team’s ambitions for the coming months.
Historically, every transit authority maintained route and timetable records in their own format. This massive diversity was a major obstacle in the way of adding and connecting new operators.
Over the last several years, however, there’s been a move to a more open format for transit authorities to record and report geographic and scheduling information, called GTFS, which was originally developed by Google, and has seen broad adoption in the US.
This has brought enormous improvements to the portability and usability of timetable and route information, allowing us to bring information from 1300 transit authorities into HERE transit services.
“But more new transit operators appear every week,” David says, “and having readily available data isn’t their first priority. We have to work with each of them to show them the benefits of being involved and help with the practicalities of doing so.”
David concludes, that with good coverage for most city centre services in the US, “The progress being made today is mostly about extending the reach into the suburbs and broader metropolitan areas.”
Among the areas we included most recently, we can mention: Birmingham, AL; Little Rock, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Bradenton, Sarasota, and Martin County, FL; Savannah, GA; Pocatello, ID; Lexington, KY; Butte, MT; Asheville, and Fayetteville, NC; Tulsa, OK; Butler, PA; Chattanooga, TN; La Crosse and Oshkosh, WI; and San Juan in Puerto Rico.
In Europe, transit tends to be more centralised and co-ordinated, and when authorities want to get involved, it’s possible for HERE to make a lot of headway, fast. There are often also existing aggregation authorities we work with that have compiled national databases for their country.
Northern Europe has been a particularly fruitful region – with 100 per-cent coverage now available in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. (In the UK, overground rail services have been a recent addition, completing the transit picture there).
Also in Northern Europe, with good coverage already, we are working to complete full coverage of
Finland, Lithuania, and Iceland.
Update (20/11/14): full train coverage is now also available in Finland.
Recent deals with Deutsche Bahn in Germany, and with the Parisian transit authorities have been notable additions. HERE also taps directly into the source data from Deutsche Bahn, so any changes to services are reflected immediately, and the train timetable is reported in real-time.
“Our next move in Germany is to expand on local services run by operators in individual cities,” David says “this will allow us to go beyond the timetables provided by Deutsche Bahn and provide you with real-time updates also for the next bus or subway”.
Elsewhere in Europe our coverage recently grew to include Angoulême in France, Naples and Sardinia in Italy, Asturias, Basque Country, Málaga and Zaragoza in Spain, Rīga in Latvia and Heraklion in Greece.
Also in September, despite the local political turmoil, 41 additional cities in Ukraine were added to the system, bringing the total for Europe to 410 cities with accurate and fresh timetable information.
Our coverage is expanding consistently across the region, especially in its largest, most populous country.
“In China, this year has seen an increase in coverage from 302 to 371 cities – maintaining and expanding coverage in the country is especially important for the Windows Phone HERE Transit app, which still carries our most significant user base in the region,” says David “our plans to expand the coverage in China even further include city-to-city transit information”.
“There’s now almost full coverage in Australia and New Zealand,” he continues. “But across the region, we’re expecting to make much more progress over the coming months.”
In the same way that map-making is a Sisyphean task – by the time you’ve finished mapping a city, major parts of it have changed – so is transit. New services appear, and disappear, every week. But the team remains dauntless. “Not a week goes by in which we’re not able to celebrate a major addition to the coverage somewhere in the world,” David concludes.