Technology uses CitySwift’s bus data engine to help spread demand peaks and encourage social distancing as government restrictions on using public transport are relaxed

 
Passengers can now determine the best time to travel, based on predicted available bus capacity data

 
National Express West Midlands has launched an innovative new information service for bus users that delivers stop-by-stop bus capacity predictions up to two weeks in advance. Passengers can now determine the best time to travel, based on predicted available bus capacity data.

Powered by the CitySwift bus data engine, the bus capacity checker at ​nxswiftconnect.com​ uses artificial intelligence to predict capacity levels for every bus, for any specific date and time. Information is continually updated based on actual bus loads, and shared with passengers online in an easy-to-understand ‘traffic light’ format, helping to spread demand peaks and improve the comfort and safety of bus users.

Andy Foster, deputy commercial director at NXWM, believes that the clear presentation of likely bus loadings will offer reassurance to people who are thinking about using the bus, following the relaxation of government restrictions on using public transport.

The main driver was trying to avoid the problem in the first place of a bus becoming too full

“The main driver was trying to avoid the problem in the first place of a bus becoming too full,” ​he said. ​“That’s going to be particularly important as we head towards September and schools and colleges return, more people go back to work and so on.”

CitySwift has already worked with the Go-Ahead Group to develop a similar tool, When2Travel.

The NXWM launch follows the operator’s work with CitySwift on an unprecedented series of network recasts following the easing of the lockdown. The 1,600-vehicle company has deployed the SwiftMetrics network analysis platform and SwiftSchedule timetable optimisation technology across its entire bus network. The software has enabled schedulers and network planners to respond very quickly to changes in demand.

One thing we’ve come to learn with COVID-19 is just how important data is

​“One thing we’ve come to learn with COVID-19 is just how important data is – whether for businesses trying to operate, governments trying to reopen or individuals trying to understand this pandemic,” said Brian O’Rourke, CitySwift co-founder and CEO.

​“This has been even more evident for public transport companies as they monitor the effects of lockdown restrictions on their bus networks and model and plan for future scenarios as restrictions have begun to ease. We’re delighted to have helped National Express West Midlands make informed, data-driven decisions as they navigate the road to recovery in these ever-changing times.”

Foster sees big potential for big data.​ “It’s really, really exciting. We’ve always used data to quite a degree, but big data is bringing in a greater element of forecast potential – looking at factors that are likely to influence demand, such as the weather, one-off events and so on.”

 
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