Big data to change urban mobility habits across the globe

An interactive map of the world’s major transit systems has been launched, using live public data feeds from trains and buses to show how major cities move.

The Travic map is the brainchild of Swiss-German technology firm GeOps and the University of Freiburg, and features over 200 systems from around the globe as colourful dots, which slowly move across the grid.

The interactivity is mostly based on static schedule data from transit authorities, but even so, it incorporates live data where it can, making it possible to watch the world’s public transport live.

Harnessing data

Big data is a megatrend in the transportation industry as major cities worldwide turn to troves of information to better understand how people are moving around the city.

Predictive analytics, the equally popular counterpart, on the other hand, harvests that data to find solutions to transportation problems we couldn’t really ‘see’ until recently.

Imagine having a city-wide picture of transportation operations, much like Travic, but where schedules, car park availability or passenger flux come together.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University and IET Fellow, said: “Applications to support public transport, travel and parking have widespread use and offer the possibility to develop smarter and more user-friendly services, which will promote more sustainable transport use in major cities.”

Every day, millions of commuters buy and use tickets, creating massive amounts of data about daily transportation habits.

Xerox introduced an analytics platform this year that filters this anonymous data and presents the information with graphics to help transport and parking operators understand and predict commuter needs.

The Mobility Analytics Platform uses data analytic algorithms and visualisation technology to predict where passengers will alight, but also the impact of running ahead or behind schedule and even the weather.

Adelaide in Australia, which has a 30-year long urban development plan in place, is piloting MAP to improve its public transport services by analysing people flows between different sectors of the city.

Future Urban Mobility

But, as with all things new, cities are still slow to capitalise on available data such as processing public transport tickets or moving away from traditional ways of doing things.

“Most of the time transit authorities just guess or do surveys, but they ask a very small fraction of passengers,” Leonid Antsfeld, Transportation Program Manager at Xerox, told E&T.

If you could see in real-time that a route is overloaded, as a public authority, you could provide more frequent buses, he said.

Another issue is the fragmentation of smart technologies. The array of existing apps for smart parking, public transport or taxis help with mobility, but won’t harness the full data potential.

“We need real-live data telling us how to get from point A to point B with all the different components coming together to suggest what is the best way to do it," Antsfeld said. “This is what we call future urban mobility; it’s holistic, not fragmented; door to door.

“Megacities, as they become bigger, would like to attract millennials because they bring growth to the city. However, to attract you need to make mobility accessible.

“Buying a car no longer appeals to millennials, they want to move fast, so that’s why car sharing economy is also an integral part of it.”

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