Transport for London looks to data to improve services and cut congestion

Written by Rebecca Hill on 9 December 2016 in News

Transport for London’s latest five-year business plan has set out how it will make better use of data to make journeys easier, including a new open data partnership with Google.

It's like Piccadilly Circus: TfL to use data to tackle congestion - Photo credit: Flickr, clry2, CC BY-SA 2.0

The plan, which is due to be considered at the TfL board meeting next week, is set to run from 2017-18 to 2021-22 and aims to expand transport routes, boost use of travel information and increase use of technology to modernise services.

It is the first business plan from the new mayor of London Sadiq Khan and comes as TfL is in the midst of launching its Night Tube service, as well as being under pressure to improve cycle safety and tackle air pollution in the capital.

As well as investment pledges for better cycle routes, increased capacity on the Tube and rail, improvements to pedestrian routes and for general transport safety, it includes plans to boost commercial revenue and make better use of technology and data.

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The business plan said that TfL’s open data strategy, which has seen it make real-time travel information freely available for developers to create new products, services and apps for users, has attracted a community of more than 10,000 developers and more than 500 apps.

“Across our business, we are improving the way we use technology to reduce costs and realise greater benefits,” the plan said. “Our new Technology and Data Strategy is shaping our approach.”

Among its plans, TfL has said that it has entered into a new data-sharing partnership with Google on its Waze technology - a community-based traffic and navigation app. Waze will use TfL’s open data, while TfL will use the company’s crowd-sourced data on road conditions, which TfL said would help manage traffic around incidents and road closures.

This is in addition to plans for TfL to make better use of social media to identify incidents more quickly and pilots for real-time traffic messaging on the backs of buses to help drivers gain information while on the road.

Other improvements set out in the business plan to ease congestion and disruption include a Surface Intelligent Transport System programme to replace many of the systems TfL uses to manage the road network.

“It will equip us with new technology fed by real-time data to make our operational decision-making quicker, leading to less disruption and congestion on the network,” the business plan said.

Meanwhile, TfL has said it plans to improve the way it buys and builds technology, as well as consolidating its telecommunication networks and use them to generate commercial revenue.

There will also be a new app for the Oyster – the payment card that is used on London transport – that will offer top-ups anywhere, including on buses, and a focus on making sure TfL’s websites meet accessibility standards.

A further measure will be to introduce mobile data terminals for the drivers of its fleet of dial-a-ride vehicles to allow smarter scheduling and real-time responses to cancellations. 

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