ASEAN missing opportunities to make transport smarter, says expert

Transport agencies around the region are at risk of losing a valuable opportunity to transform network planning and the daily commute, a global transport expert has warned.

Terry Bills, international smart transport specialist with location-based analytics giant Esri, said the transport sector’s greatest untapped resource – the Big Data collected every day from GPS devices, smartphone apps and electronic ticketing - is often underutilised because of uncertainty over how to translate the raw information into meaningful insights.

Mr Bills is coming to Singapore to attend the LTA-UITP Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition, where he will demonstrate how to use advanced location-based analytics to increase mobility and create more liveable smart cities.

“Every smartphone is a sensor and every transport card records vital information, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the terabytes of real-time data that is flooding in every day,” Mr Bills said.

“But by using advanced technology to map and analyse Big Data, we can reveal previously hidden blind spots in transportation trends and traffic patterns that will enable better network planning and management.

“Location-based analytics is unique in being able to provide these insights in a highly visual, interactive narrative that simply can’t be constructed from a table or standard data base.

“This approach could assist transport agencies to predict the value of new routes and infrastructure and enable them to model various incentives and strategies on particular routes to reduce congestion and improve service delivery and reliability.”

Singapore, Los Angeles and London have all implemented location-based analytics programs to map passenger movements and make better informed decisions about transport policy and infrastructure development.

For example, Singapore’s public transport network is an intricate and complex system in which buses, trains and taxis are fitted with smart sensors that collect and transmit data daily to form BIG-DATA@LTA.

“Using location-based analytics, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has established a framework for analysing and managing the geographic information derived from its enterprise data warehouse called Planning for Land Transport Network (PLANET),” Mr Bills said. .

It also allowed LTA’s planners to map and analyse hotspots with persistent heavy-passenger loads during peak hours and to study commuter travel patterns and behaviours.

The results from these activities are then used to engage town councils and community leaders to minimise differing views when assessing improvement measures.

In addition, the timely implementation of this technology enabled the Government to roll out a $1.1 billion bus service improvement program, which resulted in the deployment of an additional 1,000 buses to address over-crowding and frequency of service issues.

Similarly, Transport for London (TfL) started using the same technology to plan its road networks before the Olympics and have now extended the program to completely reform the transportation network in London.

“TfL’s Road Modernisation Plan involves hundreds of separate road, tunnel, bridge and cycle path projects with each new scheme represented by an internal ‘Playbook’ app that enables employees to view 170 layers of data on interactive street maps,” Mr Bills said.

“By providing a single source of truth and a real-time picture of what projects are underway, the technology has enabled smarter scheduling, community engagement and road safety analysis.”

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