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Smartcard Data Analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Hannah Parker, Professor Phil BlytheORCiD


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The sustainability of transport is a key policy driver for governments around the world as the challenge to reduce the negative impact of transport operations increases in priority on their agenda. Part of this agenda is to encourage a modal shift by reducing the dependence on the private car through increasing the appeal of public transport. The use of smartcard technology in public transport has a great potential for increasing appeal and contributing to modal shift as it provides seamless, convenient, user-friendly ticketing with the prospective for many everyday add-on applications (such as library access or payment for small purchases), enhancing the convenience for the user and in turn making the business case for investing in this new technology more robust. An additional feature of smartcard systems which could greatly improve the business case for smartcard investment and deployment, but is not yet being utilised to its full potential, is the vast amount of data gathered during operation. Each time the card is used the passenger behaviour, such as the boarding and alighting location and times, is collected. This provides the possibility for a much more coherent and in-depth understanding of user demand. As such, the aim of this study is to question whether, with additional knowledge of how travellers use public transport (captured from smartcard data analysis), it is possible to create a service based entirely on meeting users’ demands. To test this theory, Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) has provided a set of real, anonymous, smartcard usage data, derived over a two month period from its concessionary smartcard scheme, the freedom card, used on a network of bus routes connecting at key interchange points. The data set was analysed to investigate what information could be valuable and used to determine the customer trends, which collectively build up a consolidated network journey profile. To demonstrate how the findings could be useful a tool was developed using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to graphically illustrate the smartcard usage at boarding and alighting points and passenger interchange between services. Although there is scope for additional work, this study has resulted in observed behavioural patterns compiled to create customer journey profiles that can be displayed visually. This could in turn be used for planning and managing a service that is responsive and relevant to user needs, giving public transport the facelift it desperately needs, but also encouraging and facilitating the modal shift that is required for the sustainable development of the transport industry.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bryan HR, Blythe PT

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 39th UTSG Annual Conference

Year of Conference: 2007