Increasing Citizens’ Satisfaction with BIS by Disclosing Public Bus Information to the Public
Seoul Transport Information Center / Seoul Metropolitan Government

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
1. Growing demand for better information on bus operations for users’ convenience Seoul has a relatively small area(605㎢), but it is inhabited by ten million people. Roads get congested more frequently than in other global cities. Consequently, public transportation is very important in the city. The city government has implemented various policies to replace driving with high-quality public transport, making significant investments in the infrastructures for buses and subways in particular. City buses are used by 4.8 million citizens per day in Seoul. Compared to the subway, bus arrival is less punctual because of road congestion. It is one of the biggest obstacles to the popularization of bus service in Seoul. Therefore, information on bus operations including expected arrival times at bus stops is critical in the city. Its real-time bus information service has contributed to an increase in the number of bus riders in recent years. Daily ridership increased by 400,000 in 2010, 500,000 in 2011, and 700,000 in 2012. Budget constraints hampering the city government’s ability to meet citizens’ increasing demand for better information services Over the past six years, the city government has invested 21 billion to upgrade the information infrastructure of its bus operations, including BITs (Bus Information Terminals) at 729 bus stops, a website (, an ARS (1577-0287), and a smart-phone application. The city government still needs to upgrade a total of 13,000 bus stops across the city. It must also meet the demand of mobile device users for increasingly diverse services. The problem is that the city government’s budget cannot afford the investments required to fulfill all those requests. Limited hardware availability for the disadvantaged Only six percent of the bus stops in the city have BIT. There are a large number of bus riders who do not have computers or smart-phones. They get very little bus information when they ride buses, like everyone did until a few years ago. It is another significant challenge faced by the city government. It must make bus information available to more citizens through diverse channels, although it currently offers bus information on its BITs, website, and ARS.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
2. Establishing the Seoul BIS(Bus Information System) A BIS provides information on bus operations such as current bus locations, operation status, headways, and expected arrival times at bus stops to both bus companies and bus riders through GPS(Global Positioning System) receivers and wireless communication systems installed in buses. The city government’s City Transportation Headquarters began to set up the BMS(Bus Management System) in 2005 and BIS in 2007, the former to boost the safety of bus operations and the latter to make it more convenient for bus riders through supplying more information. Disclosure/Sharing of the city’s bus information to create an environment for anyone to access the BIS easily The initiative was aimed at creating an environment where one can access the city’s BIS easily. In doing so the city hoped app developers would develop diverse smart-phone applications intended for bus riders. The city government wanted to replace the traditional approach wherein the public sector creates and supplies information to the public unilaterally. The city government has succeeded in creating such an environment. App developers have created diverse services for bus riders. It expects more creative applications to be made down the road. Forming a task force on the disclosure/sharing of bus information Bus information is real-time data. To deliver such to citizens, the city government needs to secure both devices and a sizeable software system. The initiative was launched because the city government alone could not meet citizens’ rapidly increasing demand for better bus information services in the mobile age. In 2010, the city government formed a task force to conduct studies on the feasibility of the disclosure/sharing of bus information unconditionally. The team set the basic directions for the initiative. Later, it was joined by experts in the areas of transportation and information systems. The team then addressed potential problems in the implementation stages of the initiative. Based on their research results, the City Transportation Headquarters decided to disclose to and share with the public the city’s bus information with the aim of delivering better information services to citizens. Collaborating with the private sector to disclose/share the city’s bus information The city’s bus information system had limited resources. Providing the information as open data would require a portal to handle tens of millions of daily visitors. The city would have had to expand its resources significantly to create the necessary portal. The portal may suffer service disruptions due to an unexpected surge in bus information users. Thus, the city government decided to divide the information among a few private companies. Through open bids, it chose two popular search portals – Naver( and Daum( -- two telecom carriers, KT and SKT, and a transportation card company, KSCC (Korea Smart Card Co.). It provides the companies with all the relevant information according to an MoU signed with them.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
3. Disclosing/Sharing the city government’s information with private companies In Korea, no public institution has ever shared all of its public information with citizens. The reason is simple. Doing so does not benefit the institution at all. Rather, it might cause trouble to the institution. Thus, the institution sees no point in taking risks to share its public information with citizens in its entirety. Nonetheless, the city government chose to share its bus information. It stood on the side of citizens. This public information service offered by a public agency had limits in its potential to meet the mobile generation’s needs. It decided to allow public access to all of its bus information so that the private sector would customize app and other services dealing with bus information so that citizens’ demand for more sophisticated information services could be met. Creating an environment where citizens can create bus information services of their choice The city government opened a website ( with plenty of arrangements for developers to create more convenient and diverse information services within the shortest period of time possible. It assigned experts to the counseling desk, too. The city government is supporting over 3,200 individual developers at present. They have produced a number of creative app programs. The city government is planning to enhance its support for engineers in the future.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
4. Predicting citizens’ increasing dependence on mobile technologies Mobile technologies are developing fast in Korea. The proportion of smart-phone users has increased from 1.6% (800,000) in 2009 to 16.3% (8.3 million) in 2011 and then to 62.8% (32 million) in 2013. The average daily use of mobile phones increased from 87 minutes in 2011 to 102 minutes in 2012. The city government decided to focus on the development of mobile bus information services for maximum impact. Thus, it provided an open API, which has proven to match citizens’ lifestyle changes well. Establishing a data sharing system (October 2010 ~ July 2011) A data sharing system is required for developers to customize real-time bus information. The city government established a decentralized processing system and an open API web platform. In 2011, it arranged for developers (individuals and companies) to gain access to 29 services in 5 categories available in its expanded bus information API system. Only personal authentication was required. Persuading the private sector to participate to expand system resources and increase media choice (December 2010 ~ June 2012) Enabling developers to fully access bus information requires a good deal of resources. Expansion of the bus system’s resources was constrained by concerns over installation costs. It was not easy to predict the required quantities of resources, either. Besides, the city government was constrained by the number of media it could mobilize to provide its bus information to citizens. Thus, it decided to ask private companies to participate in the initiative. It persuaded the companies that they would benefit from the initiative. Five well-established private companies chose to take part in the initiative. As a result, the Seoul Metropolitan Government now provides bus information via portals, IPTV, and kiosks, too. To prepare for a sudden surge in information demand, the city government has also introduced a decentralized processing system. Consulting with experts to set the right directions and address potential problems (June 2010 ~ October 2012) Apart from surveys among bus riders, the city government mobilized professionals’ expertise to set the right directions for the initiative and address potential issues, technical or otherwise, in advance. For technical counseling, the city government’s Information System Planning Bureau began to review the feasibility of disclosing to and sharing with the public all the information on bus operations in September 2010. It also held counseling meetings with experts in transportation and information services twice in 2011. The technical outline of the information disclosure/sharing was set. To prevent entanglement in legal issues, the city government obtained a license for a location information business in April 2010, the first public institution in the country to do so. The city government also consulted with the Korea Cloud Service Association. It had meetings with KT and SKT to secure their support in the area of cutting-edge telecommunications technologies.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
5. Citizens using bus information Many bus information services have been developed thanks to the disclosure of and sharing with the public of bus information. Competition among services has led to even better quality services. It is the citizens of Seoul who have primarily driven the initiative to such considerable success. They have offered input on various services continuously. Without them, the city could not have established such fast and convenient bus information services. Private companies and individual developers Naver and Daum are the country’s leading web portals. Their websites and applications offer bus information, too, which has increased the number of visitors to their site. This has led to increased advertising revenues. Individual developers have had opportunities to learn about the diversity of bus information services while also learning a great deal about real-time data processing technologies. They have enhanced their personal qualifications, with some of them even setting up their own start-up businesses. A public institution creating bus information services at low costs It costs a public institution considerable time, manpower, and money to develop bus information services on its own. By creating an environment where businesses and individuals can develop applications and services through information sharing, it can deliver numerous bus information services to the public. It can save a significant amount of public finances, too. Furthermore, it can create new added value through such information disclosure/sharing.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
6. Financial support from tax revenues and private companies’ investment The city government invested W400 million in the establishment of the infrastructure needed to share bus information with the private sector. It funded the project with tax revenues and extra resources like parking fines and parking revenues collected in public parking lots. The private companies paid for their portions of the data connection system established according to an MoU signed between the city government and the companies. Applying private companies’ cutting-edge technologies To provide private companies with its bus information most effectively, the city government used the former’s cutting-edge technologies such as distributed data processing, cloud computing, and big data processing. It tested various proposals to come up with the best solution to its needs. The success of the initiative is mainly attributable to the private companies’ cooperation. Leadership of the task force and participation of experts The six-person Seoul Bus Information Task Force laid the groundwork for the initiative. It was later reinforced further by civil servants of related departments and experts in various areas such as traffic engineering, data processing, and telecommunications. Their input was backed by citizens’ continuous feedback, too.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
7. Bus information becoming essential in citizens’ daily lives Following the launch of various bus information services, citizens now consider the services essential in their daily lives. The services are now available in subway stations and on kiosk monitors, digital signage along the street, and electronic signage in convenience stores. Dozens of applications have already been developed. Citizens can access bus information while walking down the street. GIS-based apps for neighborhood stores also provide bus information. The initiative has played a key role in making all the bus information services available to mobile users in particular, anytime and anywhere. Virtuous circle in the development of bus information services Since the city government disclosed its bus information, many new smart-phone apps have appeared almost daily. Opening up bus information has led to the development of numerous new information apps. Through intense competition, better programs keep replacing less competitive apps. Besides, successful apps keep upgrading their services. Initially, most of them were content with the delivery of bus information. Now they provide far more upgraded, user-friendly services. Overall, a virtuous circle has been established through the disclosure/sharing of bus information and continuous competition among developers. Diverse, customized bus information services Bus information in the city has now developed significantly. A variety of customized information services are offered, too. GPS-based information is provided at some bus stops. The expected arrival time at one’s destination is also provided. Information on low-floor buses is available for those who need such buses. Women who take buses late at night can use services that connect them to a safe return home service. Inducing “smart changes” in other areas of public transportation and in other jurisdictions When the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched its bus information service, there was hardly any valuable transportation information being made available to the public in the country. Now, due to the success of the city’s initiative, other local governments have followed suit. The successful Seoul case has also impacted other areas of public transportation. Information on traffic situations on major roads, transfers, and train timetables has now been made available to the public by many municipalities. The trend has already gained momentum. The bus information services in Seoul are inducing changes in public transportation services in the rest of the country.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
8. Conducting surveys among bus riders The city government’s New Media Officer conducted surveys on bus services among bus riders in February 2010, March 2011, and April 2012 to find out their needs for bus-related services. The results were very helpful to the city’s promotion of the initiative. Getting feedback on the information services from the city call center and IT experts To find out whether citizens’ needs were being met by the city’s open API-type services, the city government checked citizens’ feedback at its Seoul call center (Dasan 120) and gathered the opinions of IT experts as well as those of bus information system operators and managers. After getting such feedback, it was able to produce its elaborate Open API website, which guides potential developers through all the app development procedures. Counseling and evaluations by external experts The city government has asked outside experts to check and evaluate the direction and progress of the initiative. When issues were raised, and no solutions were found internally, it had meetings with them, to find alternatives. As a result, the city government now provides all of its bus information to companies in a decentralized data processing method and to individual developers in an Open API pattern.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
9. Problem 1: No benchmarking model - Problems were hard to predict - Outside experts’ help was sought There was no precedent in the country for the full-fledged disclosure/sharing of public information on transportation including bus operations to the public. Therefore, the city government could not predict problems that might occur during the implementation of the initiative. It could not be certain as to the efficacy of the proposed solutions to problems. ⇒ Thus, the task force consulted with experts in various fields about potential solutions to various problems it encountered in the implementation stages. It made its final decisions after carefully reviewing all the options on the table. Problem 2: Reluctance of bus companies to disclose their information - The city government persuaded them as to the necessities of the initiative and expected benefits to them Bus GPS is classified as personal information. To provide it to citizens, the city government needed to obtain consent from bus companies, which did not see how disclosing their bus location information to the general public would benefit them. ⇒ The city government worked hard to persuade a total of 223 bus companies that sharing their bus information with citizens will not only boost citizens’ convenience but also help improve the quality of their bus services, which will lead to increased revenues for them in the end. Ultimately, they agreed to disclose to and share with citizens their bus operations information. Problem 3: System overload due to a large number of users - The issue was solved through collaboration with private companies ⇒ A large number of citizens use the bus information system. Initially, securing a system big enough to accommodate the entire demand was a big concern for the city government. The carefully selected system turned out to be insufficient to cover the increasing demand of citizens. The system underwent a few crises. The city government has overcome them through collaboration with the Korea Cloud Service Association and private companies whose sites have a large number of visitors. They have offered the city government professional counseling services.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
10. Expanded citizens’ satisfaction and an increase in bus ridership By virtue of the disclosure and sharing of bus information, diverse media are used for bus information services. They are delivered in various forms, too. Citizens access bus information more easily and more conveniently. Their satisfaction level has risen. According to a survey, citizens’ satisfaction with bus information services has risen from 94.7% in February 2010 to 96.1% in April 2012. The usage of bus information via Open API increased 300% in just two years, from 1.5 million in 2011 to 4.5 million in 2013 per day. The figures indicate that bus information disclosure/sharing has been very popular. It is very much appreciated by citizens. Saving money through the disclosure/sharing of bus information It cost a lot to expand the capacity of the existing bus information system and offer new information services. A public institution has limited financial resources. To set up and expand the bus information system, the city government spent about W21 million over the past six years (2007-2013). Around W3 billion has been invested in the system infrastructure per year. In addition, it has paid about W800 million per year for infrastructure maintenance. By disclosing and sharing bus information free of charge, the city government will not have to pay for the infrastructure setup and maintenance any longer. The city can save a significant amount of money. Making a ubiquitous network of bus information In line with the disclosure of real-time bus information, private companies and individual developers have created diverse service apps. As a result, citizens can access bus information much more easily. They can do so on computers or over the phone in workplaces and homes. Of course, they can also access the information on mobile phones walking down the street. They can also check it on BITs at bus stops. Citizens can access bus information anytime and anywhere they want. They are now one big step closer to the realization of ubiquitous networking. Creating diverse business opportunities Disclosing bus information to the public has added value to some companies and given them diverse business opportunities. Big search portals (Naver and Daum) have developed new contents combined with maps, which have increased the number of visitors to their sites. Consequently, they have enjoyed increased advertising revenues. Meanwhile, a number of new apps are appearing in app stores after being developed by new companies. It means that developers are building successful startups. Sharing bus information with the public is greatly impacting the city’s socioeconomics, too.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
11. Obvious benefits to various stakeholders The Seoul Metropolitan Government is now disclosing all of its information on bus operations to the public free of charge. This has resulted in the diversification of devices offering bus information and improvements in users’ convenience. The public sector has been able to save money in facility investment and technological development. The participating private companies have improved their corporate images and created new business opportunities for themselves. Users can access bus information whenever, and wherever they want. Accessing bus information has also become far more convenient because the competition among app developers has result in the development of many news apps. In fact, apps have developed considerably since 2010. This type of service evolution which is based on information disclosure and sharing will continue in the city down the road. Benchmarking by domestic municipalities This initiative has brought about very positive results to the city at relatively little cost. As a result it is being benchmarked by other municipalities in the country. Busan Metropolitan City and the province of Gyeonggi have already benchmarked the initiative of Seoul. They are now disclosing their bus information for free to their citizens. Incheon City is getting ready to benchmark the initiative of Seoul, too. Benchmarking by overseas cities A number of foreign governments and public institutions have benchmarked the transportation systems of Seoul. Seoul’s BIS has drawn keen interest from France, China, Japan, and Russia. Disclosing and sharing bus information is seriously being considered by many other municipalities around the world. Mega cities are in similar situations or are faced with identical problems regarding their public transport services. The initiative has proven to be a very effective way to increase bus ridership in a bid to deal with many urban problems.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
12. Paradigm shift in the disclosure/sharing of public information for remarkable public service improvements Typically, public institutions rarely disclose or share an entire database of information with the public. The initiative was the result of a paradigm shift. The city government decided to provide the citizens with bus information customized by citizens themselves. Its policy to disclose and share bus information has led to severe competition among developers for better services, which in turn has helped citizens enjoy more diverse high-quality bus information in real time, anywhere. The achievement was made through a paradigm shift. The lesson is that changes in perspectives on the part of civil servants can wield much bigger impact on citizens’ lives than increases in budgets and manpower can. The initiative shows the great value of disclosing and sharing public information with citizens. Public institutions have limits in keeping up with changes in the mobile era The problem with a unilateral bus information supply by the city government was that, when it wanted to set up a BIS, it had to work out a plan, sign a contract, and put it in place. It took the municipal government a very long time. In the mobile era, nobody has the time to wait for services. Now, setting up a system on the basis of one-year old information is not good enough for citizens. In that context, many public institutions around the world could do some serious soul searching and consider some changes in their perspectives. The final decision maker’s strong commitment and effort essential for the success of the initiative Users’ requests for improvements in the city’s initial bus information system kept increasing even though the city government recognized its limits in meetings citing financial constraints. As a result of the requests, a study club was formed within the city government. It looked into the potential for a bus information disclosure/sharing system. It was soon faced with serious issues for which it could not find solutions. The mayor, however, had been taking a keen interest in the matter since his inauguration. Therefore, with his support, the club was expanded into a task force, which outside experts joined. Whenever the initiative faced obstacles, the mayor demonstrated his strong commitment to the cause through various actions. He has endeavored to mobilize external assistance when necessary, checked the initiative’s progress, and proposed solutions to various problems. Therefore, for such an unconventional approach to succeed, the final decision maker’s strong commitment is crucial.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Seoul Transport Information Center / Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Han yeol Lee
Title:   manager of bus infomation team  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2133-4971, 82-2-2133-4990
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   jung-gu sejongdaero 110
Postal Code:   100-744
City:   Seoul

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