12th January 2012

FixMyTransport – reporting on-the-go!

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Since its launch at the end of August last year FixMyTransport, a site to report public transport issues,  developed by GeoVation Challenge winner, mySociety has grown considerably.  Myf Nixon from mySociety tells us more below:

It’s now  just over four months since FixMyTransport launched. It’s great to see so many people turn to us when problems arise with public transport – and that more and more users are reporting on-the-go. That is, of course, thanks to the mobile version of the site, which is GeoVation-funded.

Since launch, we’ve sent over 1,700 problems to transport operators, and our community of users has grown to over 3,000.
In the site’s early days, just 15% of visitors came via mobile. Since then, we’ve made a number of enhancements for those visiting via handheld devices:

  • We’ve introduced geolocation, which means that the site can automatically pinpoint where you are – very useful for those travelling in unfamiliar places, and also a boon for those who don’t want to type too much on tiny mobile keyboards
  • The same technology means that we can also invite users to see ‘issues near you’. This helps people engage with transport problems local to their own area. It’s also had an unexpected, but positive, effect: old problems get revived as people rediscover them. There’s now much less chance of a campaign fading away, forgotten.
  • Maps are more user-friendly on mobile browsers now, and are scrollable just as they are on the desktop version.

Meanwhile, we have encouraged visits from commuters by putting out most of our social media messages during the rush hour: scrolling through Twitter and Facebook seems to be a very popular way to pass the time on packed trains.

As a result of all this, mobile activity now represents almost a quarter of all visits – 24%.

We’re continuing to work on the site as a whole in several small ways, as well.fixmytransport website

Most significantly, there is now a new step in the reporting process. Before submitting a report, users are alerted to other campaigns on the same route or at the same stop. We hope this will cut down on duplicate reports and help consolidate existing campaigns.

For the new year, our most important new challenge is to refresh our data more frequently. Up until now, we’ve been relying on the public NaPTAN and NPTDR datasets to generate the 30,000+ routes and stops on FixMyTransport.

Routes change, and services change hands; some are even cancelled, especially in the climate of council budgetary cuts. Our helpful users are great at contacting us to let us know when our information is out-of-date, but checking and correcting this data takes a significant amount of our time.

The good news is that we now have access to much more frequently-refreshed data, and we’re working right now to integrate it. The result should be a more accurate FixMyTransport, and a happier support team.

Also in the pipeline are operator-specific pages which will allow for the browsing of every problem reported to each transport provider. There are plans for a blog so that we can discuss transport issues with what is becoming a vibrant and very engaged community. Meanwhile, we’re expecting mobile user visits to rise and rise – we’ll be watching that particular metric with interest.

Myf Nixon