Bicycles and water. The Netherlands is famous for its cycling culture and its special relationship with water. Nonetheless, enabling cyclers to cross waterways by ferry was generally not incorporated in digital route planning. A data and mobility challenge we of course couldn’t ignore: ferry integration in the OpenTripPlanner (OTP) has been launched!
The excellent cycling infrastructure has turned the bike into a ubiquitous mode of transport. And since the Dutch have fought the water for centuries, living in a territory largely below sea level, waterways have always been a part of the infrastructure.
Cycling is fun, healthy, sustainable and in many times even faster than travelling by car or public transport. About 31,2 percent of the citizens use bicycles for their daily activities. Our country counts about 35,000 kilometres of traffic-free cycle path. Cycle paths, cycle tracks, protected intersections, bicycle parking and fast bike routes for commuting; all parts of the mobility infrastructure. Also the area around our hometown Delft is beautiful for cycling. Many tourists visit our country to enjoy a cycle holiday in the typical Dutch landscape, that is characterised by meandering roads, historic windmills, old farms and, yes, lots of water! All combined, ferries appeared to be an indispensable asset for route planning.
In a joint effort Calendar42 and Stichting OpenGeo, both Plannerstack members, have addressed these possibilities. As the OTP project manager Jesse Harting had to unravel this waterway crossing matter for Fietsnetwerk, a client in digital cycle route planning. So, he travelled about a bit. He discovered that using ferry-services could actually be interesting for any journey planner, regardless the kind of transportation. Waterway crossings often reduce travel time. Prior to the unravelling, route planners avoided most ferries in their route suggestions. As a result people often had to travel via alternative routes, that mostly take longer than a route that includes a ferry passage.
Therefore, Jesse mapped all the relevant ferry-services in the Netherlands: pull ferries, bicycle ferries and the local car ferries. For the integration of the gathered data with the OpenTripPlanner he collaborated with Stefan de Konink, chairman of Stichting OpenGeo. Stefan accelerated the data acquisition process and created the first version of GTFS feed. This feed provides OTP with structured data through an automated process.
Now all journey planners developed with OTP software include the Dutch ferry-services information (beta). An update especially cyclers will be very pleased with.
Great, just in time for summer. Ferry well, hop on your bikes!
The ferry feature is currently in beta. It is available in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) mode via the Planner API.
Jesse Harting is product owner at Calendar42 and the Plannerstack foundation. While studying Business Administration at the VU University in Amsterdam, he earned his money picking up and delivering lease cars. In between locations he often had to use public transportation, a frustrating journey due to incorrect travel information. “It’s awesome to create a trip planner that does live up to my expectations!”
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