Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Smart Cities and Dumb Transportation Failures

This week Amsterdam is hosting a conference on Smart Cities which I am attending. I believe that a lot of the excitement around social media is going to taper off rather fast and the focus will switch to the Internet of things. How can you use open data sets to simplify and save your life? It's about getting the right information at the right time.

And that's where Dutch railways continually fails to deliver.

There is an app and website called They run a national journey planner which integrates the bus and train timetables. I used to trust it, until it sent me off on wild goose-chases because it makes some assumptions which are just not true.

First, buses don't wait for each other. So even if one bus arrives at a stand in the same minute as the other departs, you quite often see the connecting bus drive off without you.

But the biggest problem is that train defects (and there are many) are not put into the system. This trip below is in-fact impossible. The overhead cables between Hilversum and Weesp are down, so there are no trains running until 15.00. The only warning I see in the app is advice to book a seat in advance.

Does the 9292 know this? Yes, they do, although they seem to have no way to explain this to English speakers. Their separate page with details about delays is written in Dinglish. Useless. 

Which language is this? The message from the transport company is that they don't want your business
The joke is that there is a bus to Amsterdam from Hilversum station every 15 minutes. Does suggest this as an alternative? No.

It would cost very little to fix it, but nobody seems to care that it's a problem. Which isn't smart at all.

Update: sent a copy of this post to the website and received this reply.

In your blog you mention three issues in our public transport planner. I like to comment on those three issues.

At first you mention the issue of busses that do not wait for each other. I can only say that we use data that is brought to us by all the different transport companies. They determine the transfertime between two busses at a busstop. If clients show us that this is not correct at some busstops we contact the transportation companies to discuss this. If they agree we can change this. But therefor we need more specific data, what is the busstop, which busline and what direction, etc. etc.

Then you mention the fact that we do not show delays/defects in our traveladvice itself. We hope to solve this in the nearby future. It is one of our biggest wishes for the application and website. But when we will be able to show this defects in the advice itself is not yet known.

The last issue is about the disruptions that are in Dinglish, we will put this on our wishlist. It is not possible for us to translate this at this moment. Maybe in future.

I trust that I have been of service to you with this message.

With kind regards,

Natascha Houthuijzen
Marketing & Sales Support Consumenten

            9292| REISinformatiegroep bv
                Postbus 19319
                3501 DH Utrecht

Conclusions: Making this app better for foreign visitors doesn't seem to be a very high priority. So its a FAIL I'm afraid.

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