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No API in spec for new Sydney traffic model

3000 Sydney intersections to be modelled, developers left to watch .. for now

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The State government of New South Wales has invited interested parties to build a new “Mesoscopic traffic model of Sydney road network,” but seems to have made a policy backflip by leaving out a requirement for a public API, or even public access, to the model.

The tender says a new model is needed because:

“Queuing and congestion of a road corridor or network cannot be modelled accurately with the current traffic modelling systems, and distribution of traffic due to congestion in microsimulation models has limitations. Due to the limitations of current traffic modelling systems, the true benefits of road improvement proposals are not revealed.”

The tender also says the model says should offer the ”Ability to analyse real-time information to provide predictive travel information to assist network operations.” It is also expected to meet the following three goals:

  • To better reflect congestion on the Sydney road network than currently possible with strategic traffic models and on a wider area than microsimulation traffic models;
  • To enable planning for the Sydney road network by testing operational scenarios in a dynamic traffic assignment allowing for modelling of incident response;
  • To assist in motorway and network management by modelling arterial and freeway management systems.

Other required outputs include traffic visualisations, information on queue lengths, travel time and public transport tracking.

As envisaged in the tender, the model will be very complex. After a trial that is expected to model 80 intersections, the full-scale model will cover 3000 “signalled intersections” and 2500 zones.

That kind of data sounds like just the kind of thing to get developers salivating at the prospect of turning it into apps, for smartphones and the web. The NSW Government has, in the past, enthused about handing data over to third parties, after the previous government pulled access to data used by app developers, claiming it was not sufficiently accurate.

The new government even campaigned on making more apps available to more people, and ran an apps competition in 2011.

Sadly the incumbent Liberal Party's election platform has been archived since it won power, taking with it the app-enabling pledge. But plenty of policy statements, like this on Accountability talk up “innovations to make it easier for people to interact with government” or similar sentiment, such as the NSW Information Comissioner's goal of “supporting access to and disclosure of government information.”

The Register was therefore rather surprised to find no reference to public access to the new model in the tender. When we asked the office of Roads Minister Duncan Gay, whether a plan exists to open the service we were told, by a spokesperson, that “Once tenders are finalised Roads and Maritime Services will be in a position to determine if the technology is released publicly.”

We asked the spokesperson to elaborate, given that NSW's current live traffic web app is limited and does not offer the features proposed for the new model. We're yet to receive a response to that query. ®

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