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BusTracker

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What is it?

In 2016 ODILeeds worked with Highways England to run #HighwaysHack. My team's main output was The Little Car Counter: a car counting system using very cheap hardware. But the main thing we learned was that local governments in the UK have very little information about congestion on their roads.

The BusTracker tries to fix that. It recordes and reports delays for the next buses on six cross-city bus routes in Leeds and 8 bus routes in Birmingham. To do this it uses real-time bus information at 12 central bus stops in Leeds and 16 bus stops around Birmingham. For now BusTracker only works for a few hours per day but it could run all day for every city in the UK quite easily.

How does it work?

BusTracker gets bus times via TransportAPI every 2 minutes for 12 central stops in Leeds and 16 non-central bus stops in Birmingham. The 6 bus routes that it monitors in Leeds cross the city and reach most places. In Birmingham 6 bus routes to and from the city centre are monitored, plus the city's two circular routes.

The software is written in C# for Windows 10. The app collects raw data which can be pasted into Excel. From this it creates a live dashboard within the app. The data used to create this dashboard is also uploaded to a webserver and it is this data that powers this website.

The advantage of developing in C# is that the same code can be run on Windows 10 anywhere. That means the same app runs on a phone, a laptop, a Raspberry Pi, or an Xbox. In the future the same code will run on a server without a user-interface. This website works using plain HTML and Javascript, just view the source.

What next?

I'm going to make this data available first to communities who are interesting in improving their bus services. I'd also like to help Leeds City Council prioritise investments and interventions in public transport and test the council's current belief that "traffic moves relatively easy along Leeds at peak times".

In the future I'd like to run this service all day and night and in every major city of the UK. If we are to grow our cities then we need to make them denser. We cannot do that while the vast majority of people coming to work in our cities do so in cars with just one or two people in. Buses are a big part of making our cities more pleasant and more productive places to live and work. We need to understand why people don't use them and change them so that they will.