The team behind the WhatDoTheyKnow freedom-of-information site has launched a new service, FixMyTransport.
The website, set live on Tuesday, lets people in the UK report problems with train, tube, tram, bus, coach and ferry stops and stations, or entire transport routes. As volunteers have already collated a large database of transport operator email addresses, the service also forwards the complaints on to those who are responsible for the services.
"The first goal, as the site's name suggests, is to help people get common public transport problems resolved," mySociety founder and director Tom Steinberg wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "We're talking broken ticket machines, gates that should be open and stations without stair-free access. We'll help by dramatically lowering the barrier to working out who's responsible, and getting a problem report sent to them."
Steinberg said there was a second, more subtle goal: to "see if it is possible to use the internet to coax non-activist, non-political people into their first taste of micro-activism".
"Whilst the site intentionally doesn't contain any language about campaigning or democracy, we encourage and provide tools to facilitate the gathering of supporters, the emailing of local media, the posting of photos of problems, and the general application of pressure where it is needed," Steinberg wrote. "We also make problem reports and correspondence between operators and users public, which we have frequently seen create positive pressure when used on sister sites FixMyStreet and WhatDoTheyKnow."
According to Steinberg, the site was mostly written by a single coder, Louise Crow. FixMyTransport is also integrated with Facebook, to make it easier for people to interact with the service.
The first day of operations saw 70 campaigns launched, according to a mySociety blog post on Wednesday. Examples of those campaigns included a suggestion that London bus shelters should be built so rainwater runs off the back of the shelter, rather than the front where passengers have to board their buses.
MySociety even has ambitions to expand the FixMyTransport idea beyond the UK's borders. Those visiting the site from outside the country are invited to email the organisation if they want to run the service within their own countries or regions.
"We know that many people around the world copy mySociety's sites — and as an open-source not-for-profit it makes us very happy that they do so," Steinberg wrote. "However, all too often we find that people make copies of our sites without ever telling us that they plan to. As a consequence they don't get to learn from all the mistakes we make, they don't get to benefit from collaborating on shared code, and we don't get to meet exciting people in other countries!"
The mySociety project, started in 2003, is run by the registered charity UK Citizens Online Democracy. Websites run by mySociety include WhatDoTheyKnow, TheyWorkForYou — a site that tracks the records of MPs — and PledgeBank.