This post is by Raluca Anghel.

Commuting in a city of 2.69 million residents can be tedious, but Manchester found a way to ease this task for all its citizens.

Transport for Greater Manchester is the body responsible for overseeing Greater Manchester’s complex transport system, including buses, trains, stations, strategic road networks and cycle centres. However, as recently as a few years ago, Manchester still lacked any sort of mobile applications to help citizens to better plan, manage, and enjoy their journeys. Unfortunately, Manchester did not have the resources to make these apps. They could, however, make their data available to third parties -- and Microsoft was there to help.

The first challenge Manchester faced was gathering all its data in one place. The information Manchester collected used to be divided between different departments. Having all the data consolidated in one place would make it easier for developers. A friendly interface was required to allow for the use of different programming languages.

To create this unique infrastructure, Manchester chose Windows Azure. They also got assistance from Black Marble, a local member of the Microsoft Partner Network. Azure turned out to not only be cost effective, but also highly scalable as apps were developed and gained popularity. And, perhaps most remarkable of all, total solution development just took six weeks.

Transport for Greater Manchester’s Real-Time Open Data Information System launched this year. It made data about the city region’s transport system freely available in real time, including parking locations, Metroshuttle locations and journey times for several of the city region’s most popular bus routes.

The project is off to a great start with more than 100 development projects underway. The new apps created include planners that combine multiple modes of transportation, as well as listing of bus and train departures, real-time vehicle locations, and travel time estimation.

Learn more about the Transport for Greater Manchester story here.