Google Transit launched in Belgrade: What it means for Belgraders and visitors
"This will be useful especially for tourists, business people and other visitors who don't know their way around the city, to help them navigate the city using public transportation."
Google Transit, a service that helps users use city transportation in a better and easier way, is available in Belgrade as of this week. Along with Nis, Uzice, Kragujevac and Subotica, the service will soon come to Pancevo, meaning that Google Transit will be available in six towns of Serbia.
The Digital Serbia Initiative, UNDP Serbia, the Government and the Office for IT and e-Government of the Government of Serbia are behind this project in Serbia, with support from the World Bank in Serbia and the UK Good Governance Fund.
Since this is a project that should contribute to improving the state of public transportation in the Serbian capital, the question is what the introduction of Google Transit might mean for Belgrade and how reliable it will be?
Slobodan Markovic, UNDP's technical adviser in charge of digital administration, who has worked on the project, believes that the system will be reliable because the data is "pulled" directly from Apex databases, into which public transport data (timetables, stops, routes, fares, etc.) are entered by employees from the City Secretariat for Public Transport.
"The data will be updated periodically (for example, every few days), so Google Maps should pull any changes to public transport that are quite common in Belgrade. It should be kept in mind that what Google Maps displays is only static data - based on the timetable, not by following a vehicle in real time. The next steps are the regular updating of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data for Belgrade and its extension to night lines, suburban traffic and the BG Train service. This year the plan is to activate the option for 'real time GTFS' with some of the cities that have published public transport data in an open format and have GPS vehicle tracking, which will, in addition to the aforementioned, provide information on the estimated time of arrival of the incoming vehicle relative to current traffic conditions."
What will Google Transit mean for Belgraders and guests of Belgrade?
"This will be useful especially for tourists, business people and other visitors who don't know their way around the city, help them to navigate the city using public transportation. Also, I am sure that this option will be used by Belgraders often to find out quickly, using their phone how to get anywhere in the city using public transport - from which stops are the closest to them and what the frequency of departures is according to the timetable, to where the vehicle will stop and where they need to change transportation, to learning about the cost of a ride."
What users should keep in mind is that the data used by the service is not collected in real time, but that the Google Transit System for Belgrade uses data from the official timetable of the carrier.
When can real-time GTFS be expected and are any other cities in Serbia planned, other than the current 6?
"The public transport data of the first five cities was published on the National Open Data Portal and now anyone can use it for a variety of things - Google Maps is just one user. There are other apps like Moovit, Open Street Maps and the like. This clearly demonstrates the concrete benefits that citizens can get from government institutions opening data from their jurisdiction, enabling citizens and businesses to combine that data creatively, performing analyses, visualizations, applications that solve some specific problems. This is why we invite other cities that want to open source public transport data to contact UNDP and the Office for IT and eGovernment. We also urge state institutions and local governments to open source data from their respective jurisdictions (like colleagues from other institutions who have published their data on data.gov.rs) and encourage the community to creatively use that data to improve of everyday life and the way of doing business."