[Tagging] bus networks in Hong Kong

Michael Tsang miklcct at gmail.com
Mon Aug 1 15:51:07 UTC 2016

Hi all,

I have trouble filling the network=* key on bus routes in Hong Kong.

According to the wiki page, "On route relations[1] for bus, railway, and tram service routes[2], 
this key indicates the bus system, if applicable. There is currently no consensus whether the 
values should be abbreviated or not. " However, as a user, I am not sure how the "bus 
system" (i.e. name of the network) is defined here.

I believe a common consensus is that, within a network, a ref=* number should be enough to 
identify a service. Therefore, the bus routes in Hong Kong cannot be considered to be a single 
network since there are different route 1 buses on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and on 
Lantau Island. This worked in the past, because Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Lantau Island 
were separate entities (not connected by roads) before 1973. There were, in total, 3 bus 
networks across Hong Kong, clearly defined: Hong Kong Island (operated by CMB), Kowloon & 
NT (operated by KMB) and Lantau Island (operated by what became NLB today)

In legal terms, the bus routes are organised into "franchises", where each franchise is 
operated by a single company with designated fleet of buses. There is a separate legal 
document describing the official routing and the fare table for each franchise (which may be 
different between franchises). There are, in total, 6 franchises in Hong Kong (2 by Citybus, 1 
by NWFB, KMB, NLB, LWB), which encompass all bus routes. Therefore, it may be logical to 
use the name of the franchise for the "bus network". However, in reality, the same bus route 
may belong simultaneously to 2 franchises, for example, most cross-harbour routes such as 
101, 102, etc., where they are jointly operated by the operators of those franchises.

In terms of official passenger information (including booklets, websites and smartphone apps), 
there are 3 networks as seen from the user's perspective, offered by the respective operators: 
Citybus & NWFB (the operations of these 2 companies are integrated); KMB & LW (ditto), and 
NLB. For example, you can search for routes 1, 118 and 796C, but not 296C in Citybus & 
NWFB website; and you can search for routes 1, 118, 296C but not 796C in KMB website. 
However, route 1 are different between the result of these websites (because in reality both 
companies operates a different route 1), but route 118 are the same between the results 
(because in reality route 118 is jointly operated by both companies).

In terms of geographic location, it is logical to divide the whole Hong Kong into the different 
networks, each without duplicate numbers inside:
* Hong Kong Island
* Kowloon & NT
* Lantau Island
* Cross-harbour (between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon)
* Airport and N Lantau External (between Airport / Lantau and the rest of the territory)
However, people seldom explicitly refer to bus routes like "Hong Kong Island route 1", etc. 
because the qualifier is implicit in real world usage. For example, if you are told, in Stanley, to 
take number 6 bus to the terminus, ride the Star Ferry, and take number 6 bus to visit 
Nathan Road, you would know that they refer to different buses, one on Hong Kong Island, 
the other in Kowloon. In the rare circumstances where the qualifier is not implicitly known, 
most people would use the name of operator (e.g. Citybus route 6) for that.

What should I type in for the network=* tag for the bus routes such that it is least surprising 
and least confusing for data users?

Sent from KMail

[1] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Relation:route
[2] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Public_transport#Public_transport_routes
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