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Fetch and display real-time departure times for VBB/BVG public transport

Project description

This little tool will fetch and display real-time departure times for VBB/BVG public transport lines for a single stop in Berlin and Brandenburg, Germany. Here, VBB is the “Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg” and BVG is the “Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe”.

This tool was partly developed as an instructive example (although a toy one) of using Pandas and producing some output to be fed into a web-based dashboard like those one can create with Dashing (to be done).

Sample output

Here is an example output for “Möckernbrücke” (including the optional --header) on the command-line:

$ vbbvg --stop Möckernbrücke --header
Now: 14:06:04
Stop-Name: U Möckernbrücke (Berlin)
Stop-ID: 9017104

Wait    Departure    Line    Destination
------  -----------  ------  ----------------------------
00:48   14:07        U1      U Uhlandstr. (Berlin)
02:48   14:09        U7      S+U Rathaus Spandau (Berlin)
02:48   14:09        U1      S+U Warschauer Str. (Berlin)
04:48   14:11        U7      U Rudow (Berlin)

This shows the waiting and departure times (in MM:SS and HH:MM format, respectively) from one stop, limited to all earliest unique combinations of the Line and Destination columns. This is usually the only information one is interested in just “before leaving the office” as a typical use-case. This tool filters these combinations, calculates the waiting times and inserts them as the first column in the output. There are quite a few other command-line options which you can find out more about by typing python vbbvg -h.

Installation and Test

You can clone the repository and install it via pip. After installing, you will have access system wide (or in your virtualenv) to vbbvg programmatically or via the CLI.

pip install -e .

There is a list of dependencies in the file requirements.txt (for more about them please read the next section) which you can install with the command pip install -r requirements.txt.

To run the little “test suite”, download and unpack this repository or clone it, and run the command python test in the unpacked archive. Of course this needs the pytest package to be available (not listed in the requirements, but easy to install with pip install pytest).


This tool was partly developed as an instructive example of using Pandas for greatly simplifying the code needed for working with tables (DataFrame objects). The BeautifulSoup4 and html5lib packages are optional dependencies, but needed for pandas.read_html() which will barf if they are not installed. Output on the command-line is created by using the termcolor and tabulate packages, saving a great amount of code to write otherwise oneself.

System Requirements (Linux)

As a Linux user pointed out: if you are on Linux you might have to install the following packages manually:

sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev

And if you run into an /usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lz error consider installing this one before running pip, too:

sudo apt-get install lib32z1-dev


Since VBB/BVG have no API for real time data access this data is fetched (scraped using Pandas, yes!) from a web application on You can use this page for testing manually (in English). There, as a real person, you can enter parts of the destination name and get a list of matching destinations to chose from, before you get to see the one result table you are interested in.

To avoid multi-level scraping, speed things up, and add some more thrills, a small part of an existing “Open Data” VBB database, published under the CC-BY 3.0 license is used to access the stop names and IDs of the VBB/BVG public transport network (a simple CSV file named here vbbvg_stops.csv).

The resulting tables are output as “real” tables in various formats on the command-line, see usage examples below.



You can run a few sample command-line calls using the options --test and --stop <NAME_ID> for a given stop name or ID like this for the stop Möckernbrücke:

$ vbbvg --test --stop Möckernbrücke


The main function to use programmatically is vbbvg.get_next_departures(), which returns a Pandas DataFrame object, which you can convert to almost anything you like. See the following examples:

Get departures of S7 and S75 from Berlin main station:

In [1]: import vbbvg

In [2]: df = vbbvg.get_next_departures('9003201', filter_line='S7')

In [3]: df.columns
Out[3]: Index([u'Wait', u'Departure', u'Line', u'Destination'], dtype='object')

In [4]: list(df.to_records())
[(1, '00:00', u'10:01', u'S75 (Gl. 16)', u'S Westkreuz (Berlin)'),
 (4, '01:10', u'10:03', u'S75 (Gl. 15)', u'S Wartenberg (Berlin)'),
 (14, '04:10', u'10:06', u'S7 (Gl. 16)', u'S Potsdam Hauptbahnhof'),
 (24, '07:10', u'10:09', u'S7 (Gl. 15)', u'S Ahrensfelde Bhf (Berlin)'),
 (62, '21:10', u'10:23', u'S75 (Gl. 15)', u'S Ostbahnhof (Berlin)')]

In [5]: print(df.to_csv())
1,00:00,10:01,S75 (Gl. 16),S Westkreuz (Berlin)
4,01:10,10:03,S75 (Gl. 15),S Wartenberg (Berlin)
14,04:10,10:06,S7 (Gl. 16),S Potsdam Hauptbahnhof
24,07:10,10:09,S7 (Gl. 15),S Ahrensfelde Bhf (Berlin)
62,21:10,10:23,S75 (Gl. 15),S Ostbahnhof (Berlin)


When using this tool inside some kind of web-based dashboard like those created by Dashing (which was the originally intended use-case) one should use a stop’s ID to be sure to provide a unique stop on the VBB/BVG public transport network. You can find out the IDs by running test queries with the --header option.


  • mention (provides some more filtering features)

  • add more examples in the Usage section above

  • make the code polyglot, running not only on Python 2.7 but also 3.4/3.5

  • test option to filter specific line types like S-Bahn (‘S.*’) or single lines (‘U7’)

  • use in some real dashboard like those of (the original purpose!)

  • mention that case is ignored in the whole tool for all stop names

  • store the last displayed stop (in ~/.vvbvg or so) and reuse when called without any args/options

  • remove index numbers (leftmost column) from result tables when used programmatically

Due to time limitations any help is welcome with any of the items above.

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