No more Apps for SG Bus Arrival Info

May 24, 2011
So that's why all my apps suddenly stopped working! Dang! Feels like blind every morning. Boo for this news!

Singapore bus commuters using third-party smart phone applications to check arrival times of buses are livid that their access to the information has been effectively curtailed by SBS Transit.

More than 10 third-party apps such as iSingeo and ShowNearby with a combined 1 million users had been tapping SBS Transits' Intelligent Route Information System (Iris) for data on the bus operator's 200 routes, according to The Straits Times.

This stopped after SBS Transit about two weeks ago installed a captcha or computer-generated squiggly letter test on its website and mobile sites, hence barring non-human access to bus arrival information from the SBS Transit server.

The Web community has been abuzz with complaints about users' inability to access bus arrival times through their apps since.

User kennyboyboy tweeted, "SBS is being a bully for not letting 3rd-party apps (operate normally)", while another user, saynotospandex, demanded that SBS Transit "bring back other better apps now!"

On Yahoo! Singapore's Facebook page, user Harry Ho said the problem was "a step back in the advancement of infocomm in Singapore."

Defending the move, SBS Transit senior vice president of corporate communication Tammy Tan was quoted as saying that many proxy websites were accessing the firm's data without seeking approval, and the captcha was to prevent unauthorised re-use of proprietary information.

Tan also pointed out that smartphone users could continue to access Iris via SMS or through the firm's website.

But some iPhone users have also since taken issue with the Iris app, saying that it loads slowly and is prone to error messages.

Meanwhile, SBS Transit indicated it may allow third-party apps access to the data on a case-by-case basis.

In response to Yahoo! Singapore's queries, a spokesperson of SBS Transit said that requests by third-party applications for access to SBS Transit's server "will be assessed on several factors, one of which will be on the merits of their applications".

At least one developer has found a way around the problem of access to bus arrival information.

Muh Hon Cheng, the maker of the SG Buses and SG NextBus apps, said in an email interview with The Straits Times published on iMerlion that he has found "other sources of information" to keep his apps running. This alternative source seems to be a feed from, a website owned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Muh tweeted from his personal account that the feed does not provide information for all bus stops in Singapore, however, and that it only serves "the city area, and academic belts".

Other applications such as ShowNearby are experiencing intermittent service, as explained in its Twitter updates.

In one tweet, it said that SBS Transit "has refused to allow (them) to feature their timings".

SBS Transit's spokespersons were also unable to comment on whether or not any third-party applications have been approved for access so far.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, MP for Nee Soon GRC and chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee on transport, said that public transport operators need to look into enlarging instead of limiting their outreach.

"Ultimately, there should be one unifying app that can access public transport information, regardless of transport operator. The main agency LTA or the Public Transport Council could play a role in developing this app for the public good, and it should not be operator-based," Dr Lim said as quoted by ST.

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