Development of Web-based Florida Transit Information System (FTIS)
The Public Transit Office of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has continued to develop the Florida Transit Information System (FTIS)—a user-friendly software system that was envisioned as a one-stop shop for transit planning information in Florida. The system contains two major program components: (1) the Integrated National Transit Database Analysis System (INTDAS)—a database system designed for easy retrieval and analysis of multi-year National Transit Databases (NTD); and (2) the Florida Transit Geographic Information System (FTGIS)—a stand-alone GIS system customized for transit planning for Florida's transit systems. INTDAS, in particular, has become a major software tool for the transit industry, with hundreds of users from across the country.
Since 2000, four versions of FTIS have been successfully distributed via either CD or file download from the FTIS homepage. These versions of FTIS have been designed to run as standalone applications on desktop computers. While they have served their users well over the years, recent advances in web technologies have brought about new opportunities to significantly improve the accessibility and performance of FTIS. Specifically, the development of a web version of FTIS will offer the following advantages over its current desktop counterpart:
- A web version of FTIS will require no installation by the users. This does not only save the users time on installation, but it also eliminates any potential install problems due often to system restrictions and incompatibility. For users who do not have the privilege to install software on their computers, a web version will be a welcoming alternative. In addition, since a web version will reside on a web server, it will not take up hard-disk space on the user’s computer. A full FTIS installation (including satellite images) currently requires about five gigabytes of hard disk storage space.
- A web version of FTIS can be updated as often as needed to include new data, new functionalities, and bug fixes. All updates will be immediately accessible to the users without the need to uninstall and reinstall FTIS. The ability to provide timely access to the most up-to-date information will allow transit officers and policy-makers to respond rapidly to urgent events.
- A web version of FTIS will be platform free, i.e., it does not work on just the Microsoft operating systems, but any computer systems installed with a commonly used web browser such as Internet Explorer and Netscape.
- A web version of FTIS will require no CD distribution. It will save on the labor, material and shipping cost associated with CD production and distribution.
- A web version of FTIS will be flexible in database size. For example, the current desktop version of FTIS requires satellite images to be downloaded from the FTIS homepage, as those image files are simply too large for CD distribution. As FTIS continues to grow in size (for example, to include the large tax parcel, land use data, bus stop pictures, etc.), this flexibility will become more important.
- A web version of FTIS will allow tracking of user activities and thus help to better identify the user needs.
- A web version of FTIS will make it easy for individual users to keep their customized selections for such items as peer groups, variable variables, layout, etc. on the web server. The saved selections do not get deleted when FTIS is updated.
- A web version of FTIS will make it possible for FTIS to apply the many new tools and capabilities that are expected to be made available in the near future as part of the industry trend toward the more versatile web applications.
Recognizing these many advantages, the FDOT has decided to develop a web version of FTIS. The objectives of this scope are to:
- Design and develop a web version of FTIS that implements most of the basic functionalities currently implemented in the desktop version of FTIS.
- Update FTIS to include the 2004 NTD data for all transit systems and the 2005 NTD data for Florida transit systems.
- Update the GIS data layers in FTGIS.
- Continue to maintain the overall FTIS project, including updating the website, providing technical support to users, developing and updating help facilities, updating and distributing user’s guide, conducting workshops, etc.