TfL is beginning a three-month trial to identify how best to automatically count passengers on buses. The trial, which will begin on Friday 8 June, will assess which techniques capture passenger numbers in real time with the most accuracy. This could enable TfL 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.
TfL say 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
More effective management of the bus network, helping to ensure any unplanned diversions minimise passenger disruption
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, said: "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 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. This approach has transformed the way that Londoners receive transport information. 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. Depersonalised bus usage data could add a new and useful data source to enhance Londoners' transport.
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Steve Maskell recently visited an event in South Wales organised by the Cardiff Transport Preservation Group. A Festival of Transport was held at The Bus Depot, Barry Island and a set of pictures can now be viewed by clicking here