Three ways to solve the public transport customer experience challenge: Open data, interoperability and middleware

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Historically, transport authorities focused their ticketing system on fare collection and reducing fare evasion. As we move to an experience-driven customer-centric world, transport ticketing is now shifting to a customercentric industry with customer needs and service design at the forefront of decision-making.  To achieve this, many transport authorities are using open data for developers to help them tackle specific challenges and come up with  innovative ways to solve them.

Open data  

Several transport authorities are now committed to fostering innovation by providing open access to their data. Transport for NSW have a portal dedicated to this purpose, with guidance documents for developers. They also host events and challenges to uncover new ways of using the data, as does Transport for London. These web services are an important consideration while the industry sits on the verge of the Mobility-as-a-Service revolution. Their scalability provides a platform for seamless integration as new players enter the market.

Transport for London (TFL) recently ran the Data in Motion Hack Week with AWS and Geovation. The aim of the event was to find solutions to some of London’s key transport challenges through the innovation and creativity of developers working with TFL’s open data. The key challenge presented to the developers was to maximise capacity on the transport network, maximise capacity on the roads and improve air quality. The result was a list of innovative ideas, powered by TFL’s open API, including the winning solution: the Live Journey Planning app. The app takes the data from many modes of transport and overlays passenger flow/train loading and pollution data to allow users to plan a route based on how busy their stations/ routes are, whilst also taking air quality into account. 


Some journey planning apps and other mobile services developed out of open data are often quick to create and require little to no funding. However, such technology doesn’t have a deep connection with your existing ticketing system. If you want a mobile service that interacts with your transport smartcard, you will need to have a well documented interoperability specification. Often this will be managed by your systems integrator. If you have integrated your transport smartcard into a retail network for example, then it is likely that this specification is up to date and accessible for third parties to connect to. Check Snapper’s interoperability checklist here.


Advancements in technology have allowed for the development of ‘middleware’ products that act as the go-between for old and new technology. The objective  is to address the challenge of delivering solutions to meet the changing needs of customers, which legacy systems aren’t able to cater for. Middleware can  extract the complex business rules in the back-office that dictate the correct fares and translate them into a front-end user interface.

Want a more in-depth look?  

Want to know more? Transport for London’s Head of Bus Systems and Technology will be joining us in our next webinar to present case studies on how TfL has used open data to foster innovation.


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