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TfL’s real time bus information service serves 620million requests in its first year

In the year since launching its Countdown’ real time bus information service, Transport for London’s (TfL) has dealt than 620 million requests online or through more than 30 mobile apps. In that time around 2,500 improved bus signs have been installed to make journey planning easier for passengers by providing advance information for when buses are due to arrive.

An average of 1.6 million requests via the internet and smart phones and 36,000 requests via text have been distributed each day. 

The new signs are clearer and are also able to display service information. In addition, digital signs are in development to display live bus arrival information on screens in such places as foyers and receptions at rail stations, hospitals and hotels.

According to Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director for Surface Transport, ‘Countdown is the product of many years of work and has developed into the largest and most advanced system of its kind in the UK. 

‘The service has revolutionised the way people make the most of bus services in London. People are now able to have that extra bowl of cereal in the morning or finish their cup of coffee after a meal out knowing they can time their arrival at the bus stop to perfection.’


APIs offered freely to developer as part of TfL’s commitment to publish data

TfL started providing real time bus arrival information free of charge to third party developers in May. TfL allows developers to freely use it’s data feeds so long as they don’t claim to be the supplier of the data and comply with its branding guidelines.

An API is a data feed from a web server which can be used as ‘hook’ for instance to calculate and display the most efficient way of getting from A to B - or for other innovative applications that they may envisage. APIs are used widely in mobile and web apps.

Prior to May this years developers could only “scrape” the TfL site to obtain that data which is less likely to be up-to-date, as well as contravening copyright if done without permission.


Don't tut, check updates on the web or by SMS to know when the next bus is due...

Public access to the real time bus service information can be made via the TfL website, from a fixed computer or web enabled phone at On entering a bus route, postcode, street name or bus stop code live bus arrival times for all services due in the next 30 minutes can be viewed. Passengers without access to the internet can text the bus stop code to 87287 for detailed bus information at a charge of 12p plus the network operator’s standard SMS charge.



1 person has had something to say so far

Tim, thanks for this article.
Living in outer London, the information provided through Countdown is very useful to the whole family. The children can work out when is the best time to catch a bus to school and I can time my daily dash to the local rail station in my commute to central London, However there is a bit of funny in the Countdown system in my area - at the start of a particular bus route Countdown can show buses have a waiting time of around 15mins or 16 mins however this is not really the case and in fact the time quickly drops to 2 to 3 mins, usually within 5 mins. As a regular user I therefore know that if Countdown indicates 16mins I know that the wait is not that long! I wonder if other users have found these quirky things.
Overall, Countdown is a very useful service.
Posted on 17/10/12 07:11.

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