TfL to trial automatic bus passenger counting | Smart Highways Magazine: Industry News

TfL to trial automatic bus passenger counting

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Transport for London is beginning a three-month trial to identify how best to automatically count passengers on buses, assessing which techniques capture passenger numbers in real time with the most accuracy.

TfL thinks this could enable it to improve its services, provide better real-time travel information and help prioritise investment – all while being cheaper and more reliable than current manual counts.

It says a better understanding of how full London’s buses are could mean customers are provided with improved real-time information for better journey planning and information such the available accessible space, there is more effective management of the bus network, helping to ensure any unplanned diversions minimise passenger disruption and better bus planning and forecasting for the future, including allowing buses to better support London’s growth.

The trial will run on seven buses and will assess the following automatic counting techniques:

  • Cameras aimed across the bus floor observing the footsteps of passengers getting on and off the bus
  • Real-time analysis of existing safety camera footage
  • Sensors over each door of the bus
  • Analysis of the changes to the buses weight and air pressure
  • Use of depersonalised WiFi connection data

All WiFi data collected during the trial will be automatically depersonalised at the point of collection. No browsing data will be collected and no individuals will be identified. Buses trialling the CCTV, sensors or WiFi techniques will display posters to ensure passengers are aware of the trial and further information is available on TfL’s website.

Simon Reed, Head of Surface Technology and Data at TfL, said, “Technology is transforming our lives and creating huge potential to improve how we use and operate public transport. This short trial is an exciting opportunity to make it easier for everyone to use buses in London.

“We use a range of methods, such as ticketing data and manual paper surveys, to understand how customers travel across London, but we cannot measure in real time the number of people on a given bus. We hope this trial will show us the best way to identify real-time bus usage, which in turn could help us plan our network better, run it more effectively and greatly enhance live customer information.”

Steve Chambers, Public Transport Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, added, “It is really good to see the latest bus technology being trialled in London with the potential to allow passengers to make informed choices about their journeys based on how busy each upcoming bus will be.

“Disabled passengers who require the accessible space could have the most to gain from the deployment of enhanced passenger information following the successful conclusion of this trial.”

TfL says it is committed to harnessing the power of open data so all information is publicly available, unless there are overriding reasons not to do so, for example personal data. More than 40% of Londoners currently use an app or website powered by TfL data to plan their journeys, ranging from live bus times and locations to information on air quality and walking times between stations.


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