Web developer Adrian Short made a Freedom of Information request to Transport for London for journey data from the London Cycle Hire scheme on 8th October. In January TFL released data to some developers. Yet to date TFL have not complied with the FOI request and Adrian Short is one developer who is not able to make use of the data.
Adrian Short is a supporter of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. He created a free API service for live data, which helped developers produce the rich choice of cycle hire apps Londoners enjoy. His motive? “I’m keen to do what I can to help people use it and to make it work better.”
08.10.2010 Adrian made an FOI request for records of the first million Barclays Cycle Hire journeys as a CSV file.
05.11.2010 TFL send the first 100 journeys as an email attachment and say the full million will be available from their website
04.12.2010 London Open Data Hack day passes without the TFL data
27.12.2010 Adrian requests internal review by TFL of their handing of his FOI request
05.01.2011 TFL make the data available from their developer area, which requires registration and agreeing to TFL terms and conditions
TFL: “I note your preference to be sent this data directly without having to register. This will be considered as part of the internal review, which should take place next week”
Adrian: “ Please stop wasting my time and money and just send me the data.”
What Do They Know FOI documents
Million journey zip file
The data is now available to developers who accept TFL’s terms. Developers have been able to produce visualisations, for example these by Suprageography
You could also download the million journey zip file from a link in this Guardian article Guardian Data Blog, but you would have no legal basis for distributing a service which used the data.
The Licence: some highlights
2.1.2 only use the Transport Data in accordance with these Terms and Conditions and the Syndication Developer Guidelines, and not use such information in any way that causes detriment to TfL or brings TfL into disrepute.
2.1.3 You shall not make the Transport Data feeds available to any third parties, save with TfL’s prior written consent
2.1.7 only display the Transport Data for the intended use as approved in the registration form
4.4 TfL may change, suspend or discontinue all or any aspect of the Service or Transport Data, including its availability, at any time, and may suspend or terminate Your use of the Service at any time and for any reason
The TFL licence is completely at odds with government open data directives, the policies of the Greater London Authority Datastore, of which TFL is a member, and guidance from the GLA Data Committee:
“Robust requirements in all contracts to include ‘allow for free commercial re-use of public data’. This is included in the Data Charter for London.”
1. FOI compliance.
In making the data available, but subject to a restrictive licence which negates your rights under the Freedom of Information Act, TFL are clearly in breach of the Information Commissioner’s guidelines. The offer to enter into a developer contract with TFL is not a response to an FOI request. Is it possible that an Information Governance Adviser in the Information Access & Compliance Team is unaware of this?
2. Commercial development using Public Sector Information
The terms of the licence are so onerous for developers that it is difficult to see how significant commercial investment in TFL data can take place. Visualisations and weekend apps, yes, but try raising investment for a service where your use of data may be suspended or terminated at any time for any reason.
3. Is it the policy of TFL to delay compliance with this FOI request to encourage developers to sign up for their T&Cs? Whilst that may look like a strategy from inside the bunker it can only serve to undermine innovation in services using transport data.