July 1, 2011 marked a milestone date for the transit riders of Tel Aviv, Israel – citywide transit bus re-routings and new bus lines took effect and thousands of transit users across the 1800 sq km metropolitan area were affected. An exciting change, but also a daunting challenge, as Israel’s only communication of the new routes were confined to printed brochures and maps. The Israel Ministry of Transport didn’t yet have a map based information system for public transportation. This opportunity lead to OpenTripPlanner’s largest to-date implementation, BusInfo Tel Aviv.
Yaron Evron Engineering LTD had been trying to implement a mapping information solution in Tel Aviv for a while. They had met several times with the managers of the public transportation reform project and offered to create a system but were also faced with a lack of interest. Suddenly Yarone Everon was contacted in early June 2011 by an Ministry of Transportation manager with an offer of access to all the bus route mapping data. They had only 4 weeks to implement a solution that would become BusInfo Tel Aviv.
With mapping and route data in hand and a goal of a July 1 launch, Yarone Everon searched for the quickest way to do it. OpenTripPlanner’s “two minutes demo” and then the “five minutes demo” convinced them it could be swiftly implemented. The short learning curve and in-depth support format the OTP community cemented the fact that it was the solution for this project. OpenTripPlanner satisfied their launch schedule and desired feature sets.
OpenTripPlanner simply was flexible enough for this mission. And the flexibility came in handy with overcoming unique road blocks. Google Map is not available to developers in Israel; being able to implement OpenStreetMap was an important solution. Additionally, as Hebrew is a right-to-left read language, UI objects had to be transferred into a right-to-left format, they incorporated Hebrew characters by creating a custom utf-8 Character set. As development ramped up Yarone Everon found the power of OTP’s open source sommunity . For every question they posed, a quick answer was returned from the group. Some issues were already discussed; reading the lengthy discussion provided instant guidance.
“BusInfo was conceived, built and deployed without any direct involvement from OpenPlans staff or existing OTP contributors. This is exactly how an open source project should function, and it bodes well for building a vibrant and diverse community around the OTP platform”.
BusInfo will continue to grow and improve – improving accuracy of the route mapping and faster Geocoder performance are next up. A smartphone application is also in the works.