Till Nagel


Apps & the City – Open Transport

by Till Nagel.

Workshop for the first public transport open data initiative in Germany.

As first German city Berlin published its public transit data as open data. With others, the public transport authority VBB, the Senate Department for Commerce, Technology and Science, and the Open Knowledge Foundation organized the Apps & the City event on 29 November 2012 in Berlin. This hackathon was a low-key developer day where participants came together to exchange and discuss ideas, and to start exploring the published data. Overall, 150 designers, developers, open data supporters and other interested citizens attended.

FH Potsdam was the academic partner of this event. More than 20 students from our design department participated, most of whom from a course on geovisualization by Marcus Paeschke and Sebastian Meier. Furthermore, graphic design and CI of the event were done by our alumni Anja Gollor and Sebastian Preusse, and sponsored by our department.

Talk on interactive visualizations of open data

I gave a keynote on interactive visualizations of open and other data. I showed some data vis classics, one of my own research visualizations (Live Singapore!), and student projects from my courses (LiquiData, and BVG – The Real Time) in order to exemplify the various goals and ideas in interactive data visualization, and to give some inspiration to the participants of the hackathon.


(Talk is in German. By the way, the title “Offensichtlich” is a wordplay in German, and means “evidently, obviously” with the literal meaning of “openly visible”.)

More videos over at OKFN’s blog.

A day in Berlin – A demo application

As a demonstration I created a little prototype visualizing public transit data. This interactive application shows the tempo-spatial flow in Berlin and Brandenburg by using GTFS data from VBB. Each dot represents a vehicle (bus or train) on its course, with main routes becoming visible over the day. After a slow start in the morning hundreds of vehicles are shown in the peak rush hours.

Besides zooming and panning the map to select areas of interest, users can scroll through time by dragging the timeline in the bottom UI section. Users can choose different modes of transportation such as subway, buses, and regional trains, and highlight single services to observe route specifics over time. They also can switch between various visualization settings such as whether a background map, or whether trails for better visibility are shown.

The following screencast video shows a Monday in December 2010, and uses map data from OpenStreetMap.

The prototype was created in Processing, with the help of our Unfolding map library. You can download the used VBB timetable 2010 / 2011 data set as GTFS for your own applications.

10 comments on ‘Apps & the City – Open Transport’

  1. [...] Visualisierung des Berliner Nahverkehrs – a day in Berlin [...]

  2. Jan Ehrhardt says:

    What are the future plans for this visualization?

    • Till Nagel says:

      As soon as I have a bit of time, I will write a tutorial on visualizing tempo-spatial data with Unfolding, and this will be one of the examples.

  3. [...] Apps & The City — noch ein Rueckblick auf den OPV-Hackday in Berlin, mit Videos. [...]

  4. [...] riittää. Marraskuussa 2012 Berliinissä järjestetty ensimmäinen Apps & the City -hackathon kokosi paikalle 150 avoimen datan [...]

  5. [...] interest in the Germany’s first public transport open data initiative.  Already the first Apps & the City -hackathon in November 2012 attracted 150 developers and interested [...]

  6. miguel says:

    Hi there,

    I love the concept for that application and I would love to see how it’s built. Do you plan on having it open sourced?

  7. Hey There.
    It’s Amazing. Have you released the tutorial?
    It would be great to reproduce it, but it’s not thaat easy to find good tutorials on integrating unfolding and GTFS

    thanks you

    • Till Nagel says:

      No tutorial yet. But your comment is a good reminder to publish something on this, both the GTFS parser, as well as the tempo-spatial visualization in Unfolding.

      Plan to do so in the next weeks. Stay tuned.

  8. That Would be great!

Leave a Reply