TfL to track bus passenger journeys in a bid to reveal new commuter data

 
Emily Nicolle
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Londoners could soon know if their commuter bus is full before it arrives
Londoners could soon know if their commuter bus is full before it arrives (Source: Getty)

Transport for London (TfL) has said it will be trialling new tactics for automatic passenger counting for three months, in an attempt to improve services with real-time travel information.

Beginning on June 8, TfL will use technology like cameras aimed at the floor to track footsteps, door sensors and wifi connection data to identify the best way to automatically count the number of passengers on a bus at any one time.

It’s hoped that this information could enable TfL to provide real-time updates on how many people are on a bus at one time, enabling apps like Citymapper to let users know how busy the bus they’re waiting for is going to be.

The routes up for testing are the 47, 55, 222, 507 and 521. Wifi tracking was previously used in 2016 during a four-week pilot on the Tube, which TfL said was successful in providing the authority with useful data on passenger journeys.

Other tactics in the trial include an analysis of the changes to a bus’ weight and air pressure, and analysis of existing CCTV camera footage.

Simon Reed, head of surface technology and data at TfL, said:

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.

TfL have been keen to stress that all wifi data collected during the trial will be “depersonalised”, so as to protect users anonymity. All buses trialling the CCTV, door sensors or wifi techniques will have signs up clearly informing passengers of the activity.

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