Crowdsourcing to Fix Broken Britain’s Transport

FixMyTransport is crowdsourcing to create pressure groups to fix broken-Britain’s public transport system

Disgruntled travellers who experience the misery of travel problems can air their views to the relevant authority using a new Website service, FixMyTransport. Reports filed can then be commented on by other affected travellers to “crowdsource” the authority into action.

The site is part of the MySociety group which advises the government on how its data can be opened up to developers and the general public. An initial testing ground for the transport idea was FixMyStreet which allows citizens to complain to their local council about problems that need fixing.

Taking Advantage Of Data Transparency

"Euston, we have a problem"

The new site has just emerged from its beta-testing phase and has already logged many complaints from around the nation – but the main lines of complaint centre on London. When an issue is filed, complete with pictures if available, replies from the operators and other people’s comments are shown within the complaint stream and response times from the authorities and companies seem to be quite good – but the answers can be frustrating.

Complainant Dean Fell is trying to pressure First Capital Connect into installing Wi-Fi on its services and enquired when this would be available. The response from First’s customer relations department is less than satisfying, making the already apparent statement: “Regrettably, WiFi is not available at our stations or on board our services at the current time.”

If sufficient people bite at the crowdsourcing stage, a campaign page can be created which has tools to publicise the cause and lobby for change.

Route operator contact details have been garnered from the project which began making government data available in January 2010. The National Public Transport Data Repository and National Public Transport Access Nodes, which the site taps into, contain all the contact details of the transport operators and over 40,000 train, bus, underground and tram stops.

As the site develops, the problems of reporting complaints will be smoothed out. As an example, MySociety’s marketing and communications manager Myf Nixon pointed out: “It gets very complicated because some operators’ problems – say, with accessibility for wheelchair users – have also to be reported to TfL [Transport for London] as well as the operator.”

After the first day of full operation, Nixon blogged, “We experienced a 550 percent rise in visitor numbers (the servers took it in their stride, we are glad to say). Over the course of the day, the number of reports on the site doubled, with more than 70 totally new campaigns being created and many more problems being sent to operators. With each report came more tweets, more blog posts and more users signing up to campaigns.”