The goal of zee.gr is to make getting around Athens (and beyond) by public transport easy.
This is the second version of zee.gr, bringing significant improvements over the first version including updated routing data, incorporation of the original taxi app, estimated live departures, timetables and spider diagrams (all transit options to/from a specific location). The following sections describe how to use the site. Kalo taxidi :D
The site is divided into 2 tabs, shown in the right hand side screen-shot. The first tab; the Trip Planner, is for planning a trip from A to B. The second tab; the Route Explorer is for navigating/exploring the public transport system.
How to get from A to Zee?
The fastest way to plan a trip from A to B is to simply right-click on the map to indicate your starting point and destination. By default, the trip planner will assume you wish to travel immediately by any available means of public transport.
If you do not know the location of your starting and destination point on the map, simply type the addresses into the route planning form as shown in the screen-shot on the left. In addition, it is possible to indicate which means of public transport you are willing to use by ticking the appropriate boxes. Currently the trip planner supports traveling by combination of Athens metro, ISAP (metro line 1), suburban rail, bus, tram, trolley and by taxi.
To indicate a specific departure or arrival time, left-click inside the date and time area (shown in the right hand side screen-shot) and use the tool to make your modifications, then, optionally, click on "Departing" to indicate if you wish to arrive or depart at your specified time.
The trip planner returns results grouped by alternative options to travel from the starting point to the destination. If you have included Athens taxi in the trip planner form, the first option displayed will show an estimation of travel time by taxi according to a forecast of current traffic conditions along with an itemised prediction of the taxi fare. This prediction is sensitive to the time of day you wish to travel, for example a taxi trip taken at 9am is likely to spend a lot of time in slow moving traffic. Further details on Athens traffic prediction can be found in my blog post.
Options 2 onward, describe how to use public transport in order to reach your destination. The options shown in the left hand side screen-shot show 3 ways to get to Omonia square from 44 Kifisias avenue by taxi or by using a train, leaving at 5.30pm. Option 1 (take a taxi) indicates that the journey will take 33 minutes, of which 12 minutes will be spent in traffic and will cost approximately 12 euros.
Option 2 suggests to take the Proastiakos Π2 (suburban rail) to Doukissis Plakentias, transfer to the Μ3 (metro line 3) to Syntagma and then transfer to the Μ2 (metro line 2) to Omonia. The second option suggests taking the Proastiakos to Neratziotissa and transferring to the Μ1 (metro line 1 - ISAP) directly to Omonia. Both options, excluding the time spent waiting and walking, are faster (and cheaper!) at this time of day.
All of the transport options returned by the trip planner are displayed on the map so that you can visualise your trip. Since a large number of transport options are possible for any given trip, they are displayed individually on the map. To visualise a specific option, move the mouse over the option boxes in the trip planner results and the map will update automatically. This feature is intended to provide you with a quick visual summary of your available options.
Finally, after the trip planner has returned results, it is possible to fine-tune the transport options for your journey: Add or remove transport means from the plan form, for example, remove buses or trains.
An important thing to note is that your trip is very sensitive to the specified required departure or arrival times. This is because, unlike traveling by car, the public transport network is "dynamic", in the sense that routes only exist for specific points in time. Because of this, it is well worth trying different departure or arrival times in the planner and updating the results with the "Find trips" button to see for example your travel options if you left 10 minutes later.
Browse routes, schedules and live departures
Unlike the trip planner, the route explorer lets you visualise and browse the public transport network. This is useful if you have existing knowledge of a route and wish to view schedule information or wish to orientate yourself with all available transit options for an unfamiliar location. The following sections detail the various options available to you in the route explorer.
Spider diagrams - All transport options to or from a specific location
Sometimes you may not be interested in planning a trip from A to B, you may wish to simply see your options. Inspired by the bus spider diagrams at London underground stations, this tool helps you visualise all of your options from any given point on the map. Ultimately, this means you can never get lost!
To use the spider diagram tool, select the Route Explorer tab, then simply right-click anywhere on the map to view all available transit options to or from a location. The example below shows all transport options from a street in Moschato, the actual results can be viewed here.
The idea is that you can quickly see all of your options with 1 click. The tool scans all options within a 500m radius of the specified point. Routes are colour coded and weighted according to frequency. Higher frequency routes are colour coded in Black, average frequency routes in Blue and low frequency routes in red. In fact, all routes on zee.gr are ordered by frequency with 1/7 of routes colour coded black, 2/7 of routes blue, and 4/7 routes in red. 14% + 28% + 58% = 100%. This has the effect that the more important routes stand out, and helps to cluster the information in a meaningful way. In the example above, it is immediately clear that if you were interested in getting to the centre of Athens, you should take the 040 bus or number 1 trolley. The lower frequency routes tend to be local services, as shown above, and can be ignored if you are interested in traveling to another district.
The spider diagram tool also works in reverse, showing all transit options to a specific location. This can be very useful, if for example, you are looking for a convenient meet-up point with friends or wish to show customers directions to your place of business. The spider diagram is also interactive: A list of routes are displayed along with the diagram on the right hand side of the map. Routes are grouped by nearby bus stops or stations, and moving the mouse over any route will cause it to be highlighted on the map - this is very useful for more complicated diagrams.
The service list
The service list is the main part of the route explorer. Displayed on the right hand side the map, the list is automatically updated when you interact with the map.
Each service in the list, shown in the screen-shot on the left, is weighted and colour coded by frequency, allowing you to see the most important routes for any given area of the map. Moving the mouse over the list displays a simplified route overview on the map. Clicking on a particular service will lead you to detailed route information, described in the next section.
Selecting a service will display the actual route taken on the map starting from Afeteria (Starting point) to Terma (End point). At the same time, details of the route, including all stops, first and last service times, are shown on the right hand side of the map.
Moving the mouse over any of the on-route stops will cause the corresponding stop to be highlighted on the map. Clicking on a stop will bring you to detailed stop information, described in the next section.
Clicking on a stop from the map or route details will show all outgoing services from that stop on the map along with a queue of next departures on the right hand side.
The example in the two screen-shots to the left, shows the services from bus stop ΡΗΓΙΛΛΗΣ in the Kolonaki district of Athens. The diagram shown on the map is similar to the transit option spider diagram, except that it shows services from a stop rather than from a location on the map.
In addition to the outgoing routes, an estimation of the next bus arrival is shown along with the option to view detailed timetable information for a route from this specific stop. Please note that these times are estimated and are not derived from real time tracking - take a look at the FAQ if you are interested in how this estimation is possible.
The purpose of the diagram is to help you quickly understand spatially where you can go from a particular stop; I believe this is much more useful than a simple list of services. In this example, it is immediately obvious that the 815 goes to Tavros, although it is colour coded red (as opposed to more frequent Black), so you are likely to be waiting quite some time. Check the estimation and go for a coffee...
Another useful feature of zee.gr is the ability to view timetables/schedules from any given stop or station in Athens. Timetables published by the official transit agency are only available from route start and end points which can sometimes make it difficult to guess when the bus will arrive at an intermediate stop.
Continuing the bus route 815 from bus stop ΡΗΓΙΛΛΗΣ towards Tavros example, selecting to view timetable information for this route from this stop will display the first screen-shot on the right hand side.
Again, please note that these times are not official, they have been estimated (see FAQ section) and with the exception of fixed rail services, serve only as a heuristic. In this example, it is possible to see that the first 815 bus from this stop is at 05:44am and the last at 23:01pm. At the same time, the map is updated to show a sub-section of the 815 route between ΡΗΓΙΛΛΗΣ and the Terma/end point.
It is then possible to view even more information. Suppose, for example, you decided to take the 20:33 from the timetable. Clicking on this entry will lead to another list, shown in the far right hand side screen-shot, containing a detailed itinerary.
The beginning of the list shows the stops traveled by the bus before it reaches ΡΗΓΙΛΛΗΣ. Since in this example the idea is to go to Tavros from ΡΗΓΙΛΛΗΣ, stops before have been greyed out. If the 20:33 was taken, you can then see your expected time of arrival / ETA.
What distinguishes zee.gr, from say, Google transit for Athens?
I started working on zee.gr long before Google transit in Athens appeared. It was in fact the lack of quality trip planning tools for Athens that originally drove me to create my own. Since then, Google caught up with me, and collaborated with OASA to create a GTFS data feed. The same thing happened to me back in 2007, when I started working on a similar tool in the UK: UK Bus stops. This time however, I did not abandon the project.
Whilst Google transit is indeed an excellent tool, and I admit that my opinion is somewhat biased, I do believe that zee.gr is far superior for trip planning specifically in Athens. Having actually lived and worked in Athens, using public transport every day, I have first hand experience with the city as a tourist and as a resident. My routing data, in particular the routes, was built by hand over a period of 3 years. During that time I occasionally defaulted to acts of extreme geekery: occasionally timing buses I used in order to know the average bus speed in parts of Athens. To this date, I continue to refine and ensure the quality of data presented on zee.gr and would first argue that my data exhibits higher quality.
In terms of traditional trip planning functionality, that is, planning a trip from A to B, the trip planner on zee.gr returns results that are designed to be very quickly understood. That is, the various transit options for a given journey are clearly separated and displayed as a colour coded visual summary on the map along with as little text as possible. The intention of this approach is to summarise journey options, rather than present a flood of data. In addition to the expected means of public transport (bus, metro etc), zee.gr also includes traveling by taxi as an option. In this case, data specific to Athens, such as taxi tariffs and even a model of Athens traffic have been used to calculate results which can not be obtained by means of a generic trip planner.
By far the most useful feature of zee.gr, missing from traditional trip planners, is the Route Explorer function. Trip planners do a great job of getting you from A to B, however there are situations where data should be presented in a different way. In particular, the main "problem" of public transport in any city is that riders may feel they are not in control, and the transit system, especially in the eyes of a visitor, may seem to be a mystery. In other words, the rider should be offered a similar level of control as if they were driving a car, free from the uncertainty of scheduled services and the ability to orientate themselves by means of exploration.
The Route Explorer tries to address this need by offering the rider the ability to explore the public transport system even without prior-knowledge of the city or known destination. All routes can be visualised (plotted on the road and not just a straight line between stops) and explored, enabling the rider to become orientated and knowledgeable of their options as opposed to ridged, time dependent itineraries.
It is not enough to inform a rider of nearby bus stops or routes. If I am walking down Leoforos Irakliou in the northern suburbs and I am told that bus stop "ΤΡΟΙΑΣ" is 0.3Km near and that the "A8" bus passes through this stop (at an unknown time), firstly, knowing that "ΤΡΟΙΑΣ" is near me does not help at all. Secondly, knowing that a bus "A8" passes by at some unknown time does not mean anything to me. In this scenario, the Route Explorer lets me visualise all transit options around me immediately like this and if then I am interested in the A8 from this stop, I can then see an estimation of how long I will be waiting at the stop here or see an estimated timetable specific to that stop here.
Although, having said these points, I do not consider Google transit as a "competitor" as it were. After all, there exist other Athens trip planning projects backed by ample funding, I'll leave the competitive part to them. I prefer to think of zee.gr an "alternative" trip planner; choice is a good thing.
Where do you get your data from?
I started creating my own data-set in 2009 by constructing a graph database derived from routes which consisted of a list of roads and ordered stop names. I used reverse geocoding to approximate the actual routes, and then fixed any errors by hand (300+ routes). Then, having constructed static routes, I placed bus stops from an ordered list at equal positions along the routes as an estimation for their location. At the time, bus stop location data was not available. Later in 2011, OASA in collaboration with Google released a GTFS data feed here, which I merged with my own route data, in particular the stop locations and schedules.
The data however contained many errors, for example buses traveling at the speed of light, missing and corrupt trips and incorrect ordering of stops. For this reason, I have corrected many schedules, added/removed routes and in combination with my initial data-set, effectively have a distinct set of transit data. I believe that OASA (and soon OAS.TH) will provide an updated feed. If interested, keep checking here for updates.
For the taxi part of the trip planner, I built a forecasting model for week day and weekend traffic in Athens. This model is based on recordings of car speed obtained from road sensors on the streets of Athens and sampled over a period of time via a third party source to obtain a picture of average car speeds at different times of day. The model is therefore static, based on prior observation, not real-time and therefore serves as a forecast or projection.
For the taxi toll-road locations I again make use of OpenStreetMap data (roads marked as toll toads). For the on-road taxi route calculation, I use MapQuest's Open Directions API and geolocation service.
The trip planner and taxi calculation tools both make use of municipality polygon data obtained from the excellent Greek open geo data project
Buses in Athens are unreliable, how do you predict departure times?
Unfortunately, especially in the case of local services, this is somewhat true. Although Athens has a very extensive transit system and plans are underway to introduce real-time information at selected bus stops, it is currently nearly impossible to guess when a bus will arrive. The only available schedules are from route starting points (afeteria), from which service frequency can be estimated.
Given that the only available schedule information for buses are departure times from starting points (and in reverse), the optimal strategy to predict bus arrival time is to first figure out the average speed of a bus in Athens. This speed can then be varied depending on the time of day and if the bus travels on a dedicated bus lane or highway. Then, if you know the distance of a bus stop from the route starting point, it is possible to estimate the arrival time. Providing that the drivers actually adhere to the starting point time table (which i have seen is not usually the case on local routes), this is the best possible estimate.
To improve this estimate, distances between stops are calculated according to the actual on-road route as opposed to the straight-line (as the crow flies) distance between stops. Using this method, the estimations on zee.gr are calculated by interpolating intermediate departure times for each stop along the route.
Ultimately, the idea is that an estimation is better than no information at all. Given the available information (starting point times), this is the "best guess". For a high frequency route that runs, say, every 5 minutes, the estimation is not very helpful. However, for less frequent routes, it could substantially reduce the amount of time spent waiting at a bus stop. Statistically speaking, if you took the same bus from the same stop every day, and averaged the actual arrival times over a period of time, the result would be close to the estimated value and assuming the starting point time table is correct, arrivals should not deviate far from the average.
Why is the site a mix of Greek and English?
My Greek is quite limited. I plan to have multiple language options for the site soon, but for now the site is mainly in English with a little bit of Greek here and there. If you are a non-Greek speaking visitor to Athens, you will notice that all bus stops are sign posted in Greek only, with no English/Greeklish equivalent. The same is true for this site. The only exception are the fixed rail services, metro, suburban rail and tram.
This is actually the only frequently asked question about the site. Many friends (Athenians) seem puzzled as to why I would invest so much time focusing on Athens. Some go so far as to suggest that I should concentrate on London, "where it would be used by more people". The truth is, I started the project as a bit of fun while living in Athens, based on the lack of existing tools, and did not expect at the time it would take so long. zee.gr is not a startup, company or funded project. It generates 0 income, and in fact operates at a loss every month due to the expense of a dedicated server. I do plan however to improve the site further, and at some point expand to other cities in Greece, then other parts of Europe. For now, the tool is dedicated to Athens, which is a great place to explore.
A time-lapse simulation of Athens public transport using zee.gr data
Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.
zee.gr has no relationship with the Athens Transport Organisation (OASA) or related transit agencies. Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure accuracy of data presented on this site, visitors are encouraged to exercise caution and consult the official transit agency websites where appropriate. Official sources of Athens public transport information are as follows. The main umbrella organisation OASA, maintains official schedules and announcements here: oasa.gr. Athens orbital, fixed rail services (Metro, ISAP and Tram) here: stasy,gr, Train OSE, Proastiakos (Suburban rail) here: trainose.gr.
With the exception of taxi trips taken to and from Athens airport to the centre zone of Athens which operate a fixed fee, taxi fare calculation is provided as an estimation only and may differ from the actual fare. Whilst a significant deviation from the predicted fare should arouse suspicion, zee.gr can not be held liable for any dispute.