OC Transpo bus data all about the money

OC Transpo does not want to make information about bus locations and other data open to the public until it knows what the data is really worth.

The head of OC Transpo told Ottawa's transit commission the transit provider didn't want to make information about bus locations and other data open to the public until it could determine how much money could be made using the data.

OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier had told the transit commission the data would be made available in keeping with the city's push to become a municipality that shares its data openly.

OC Transpo General Manager Alain Mercier wants to use bus data as a money maker, according to one Ottawa councillor. ((CBC))

Software application developers had been clamouring to get their hands on the information to create useful tools for mobile phone users, and many councillors have been trying to encourage developers through contests to work with the city on creating useful programs.

Now Kanata Councillor Marianne Wilkinson said Mercier was backing away from that statement.

"Today they said maybe they wouldn't...they didn't say they wouldn't, they said maybe they wouldn't," she said.

OC Transpo gave public, developers a sneak peek

OC Transpo had briefly made the data available to the public, which allowed developers to create applications to track GPS-equipped buses and potentially open the door for other uses. About 90 per cent of OC Transpo's fleet has GPS on board.

But OC Transpo pulled the data in January last year. Mercier said at the time it was not accurate enough and could provide misinformation to riders.

City staff also said the data could be used to generate advertising and sponsorship opportunities and said giving it for free to third-parties could mean sharing potential revenue.

Wilkinson does not buy that argument saying OC Transpo could still make money off their own application, provided they did it right.

"He wants to use it as a money maker. You can still do that," she said. "They'll only take the money away if they do it better than he does."

She said OC Transpo plans to investigate the potential revenue of the data and report back to the commission in a few months with an update.