According to the most recent survey from Transport Focus, seven in ten say that they won’t use public transport until social distancing is in place.
But before they leave home to catch a bus, how can the travelling public be sure that there will be sufficient room on board? There may be plenty of space available, but many may choose to take a different mode of transport if they cannot be certain.
It’s a big problem for bus operators, who desperately need every bit of fare revenue they can get during this challenging period. And it’s a big problem for towns and cities, who fear the consequences of a surge in car use.
We worked with the Go-Ahead Group to quickly develop and launch an innovative technology tool - When2Travel - that provides bus users with dynamic information about bus loads.
By harnessing the power of the CitySwift bus data engine, When2Travel uses artificial intelligence to predict how many people will use a bus service at a specific date and time. This helps to inform journey choices at a time when the on-board capacity of buses is severely restricted by the need to maintain social distancing.
Simple, colour-coded versions of bus timetables can be viewed on the When2Travel website. After selecting their desired stop-to-stop journey, would-be passengers can see which services are likely to be busy (red), or have space (green). If space is available on their desired service, the bus user will feel reassured about their journey. And if the service is likely to be busy, they can amend their journey time – helping to make the most efficient use of the available capacity.
The data is continually updated, based on actual use, helping to provide predictions for the days and weeks ahead, while accounting for influential variables such as the reopening of shops and schools.
When2Travel will be deployed across all Go-Ahead’s UK bus companies, outside of London, in time for the reopening of non-essential retail on June 15.
This dynamic data set will also help these companies to plan future timetable changes based on emerging demand about travel patterns.
"According to a recent Transport Focus survey, 71% of people say they won’t use public transport unless social distancing is in place," says CitySwift CEO Brian O'Rourke. "By giving passengers the information they need to choose to travel on quieter buses, the Go-Ahead Group can help ensure their comfort, safety and peace of mind. Innovative projects such as this will help restore passenger faith in public transport and drive home the message that buses are safe, reliable and convenient."
"Innovative projects such as this will help restore passenger faith in public transport and drive home the message that buses are safe, reliable and convenient."
"I think it could be the most powerful use of big data yet in terms of aiding local bus networks and customer service," says Martijn Gilbert, Managing Director of Go-Ahead's Go North East subsidiary – the first to go live with When2Travel. "That's a bold statement, but we are really excited about it."
"I think it could be the most powerful use of big data yet in terms of aiding local bus networks and customer service."