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Real-time people counting in public transport: 3 really good reasons to tell your boss

Updated: May 3

Do you have any studies on the use of your lines? That's great! But do you know in real time what the load factor is for each car, bus or train? Do you know whether the platform is full or just busy? ... What can you do with this information?

Whether you need to take action on the performance of your network or on passenger satisfaction and comfort, knowing how many people are using your services in real time is not so obvious, and yet it can open up great opportunities to optimise your business.

As a source of a wealth of connected data, measuring passenger numbers in real time takes you into the smart city and the future of urban and suburban transport.

Passenger information - communicating passenger numbers in real time

Real-time measurement means real-time communication! Since you're going to be measuring passenger numbers in real time, why not share this information with your users?

Improving user experience and comfort

For passengers, knowing how busy they are in real time before they travel means they can get organised and travel more comfortably. You'll also see flows smoothing themselves out, especially if, as well as communicating live information to users, you also offer a forecast, based on artificial intelligence learning and taking into account variables such as the weather, school holidays, public holidays, etc. This "passenger information" can be communicated in your applications and on your websites. This "passenger information" can be communicated in your applications and on your websites, on platforms, in stations, etc. It will become as important as waiting time in the eyes of users!

Route planning based on real-time traffic flow

Thanks to real-time ridership data, the load factor in the transport system can also be communicated to third-party applications... If passengers know which train they need to be in to be closer to their exit, they will also be able to know which train is the least crowded or whether the next bus is a little less full; they will be able to choose the "least crowded" route in the same way as they choose the "fastest" route today... It's a not inconsiderable variable when it comes to choosing a route, and one that users will be able to appreciate to the full!

Reassurance for post-covid travellers

The health crisis linked to COVID-19 has profoundly changed the behaviour of public transport users. At the end of the confinement, they hesitated for a long time to use them to get around... Instead, they preferred other means of transport that were more conducive to social distancing. Today, there is a clear upturn in the use of public transport, although some are still a little hesitant... Communicating real-time information about passenger numbers and the distribution of loads across the different trains/cars/buses is the solution to reassure them!

And since you also have the data, it will be easy for you to respond on social networks to people who might complain about the crowds, that the next bus is less crowded or that there are fewer people at the back of the platform...

As you can see, passenger information, and in particular the communication of real-time passenger numbers, in its various forms, should become essential in the next few years, and it will be easy to convince your management with these arguments!

Secondly, put forward arguments relating to the responsiveness of your services to the (too) many incidents that occur on your network.

Incident management - Reacting with resources adapted to the load rate in real time

We all know that when an incident occurs, all the lines are likely to be affected to a greater or lesser extent, and as well as communicating with passengers, it's vital that they are taken care of to avoid outbursts, discontent and, above all, excessively long and costly service stoppages.

So how can real-time information on passenger numbers and vehicle occupancy help you?

  • If you need to dispatch people to the site, you will immediately know how many people to send to inform passengers and help them complete their journey; to get trains off, etc.

  • If you need to send helpers, they will be able to find out before they arrive how many passengers are travelling at any one time. This will enable them to plan the equipment needed to evacuate, protect and rescue passengers. In this way, you can ensure their safety!

  • In the same way, to organise checks and security in the coaches

  • If you need to charter temporary replacement buses, you won't need to do any rough calculations; you'll know exactly what you need to be effective!

  • If the question arises as to which line is best to restart first, the "real time load" variable will be invaluable!

Finally, the data from real-time user or passenger counts can of course also be used to take a step back; to analyse, decide and plan! Our technical experts can even help you understand how to analyse real-time data!

Scan transport to monitor occupancy data

Line performance - capitalising on real-time affluence data

Review the transport plan

Thanks to this real-time information on passenger numbers, you can take action on at least two levels:

  • Firstly, 'cold', if you already had the intention of changing the transport offer, you will probably take a close look at real-time passenger numbers, over the more or less long term, to find out when is the right time to do so. In fact, if a trend has emerged in recent months or years, you will be able to see very easily, thanks to the data collected, when the trend will become more widespread. You have excellent counting accuracy and much more up-to-date indicators than if you waited 6 months or 1 year to compare your data.

  • On the fly, the data from real-time counting will enable you to very quickly assess the effectiveness of a real-time or H+4 (rush hour etc.) transport plan and to react very quickly if you need to make any adjustments.

This is all the more important as the number of modes of urban mobility is increasing, particularly soft mobility (walking, cycling, scootering), and it is important to reconcile your transport plan with that of these new modes of transport in order to optimise flows on a city-wide scale.

Avoid manual passenger counting campaigns in the transport sector

What's more, if you were in the habit of regularly scheduling tedious manual counting campaigns, you can rest assured that you won't be doing it again! The real-time footfall data you obtain can be analysed both hot and cold, giving you all the indicators you need to make the right decisions! And, in addition to the savings you'll make, you'll have continuous data that will give you a global and dynamic view of traffic, rather than a fixed image at a given moment.

Optimising infrastructure costs

Finally, moving to real-time passenger counting is a good opportunity to update your counting infrastructure and make real savings on equipment. There are various types of counting system, but in the case of public transport, certain innovative technologies mean that you don't have to install sensors/cameras at every train door, while still being just as accurate. This is particularly true of radiation sensors, which are installed on platforms and scan passengers through the windows of each train. This technology, patented by Affluences, will be used to determine the load factor and communicate it to passengers so that they can spread out as evenly as possible on the platform!

Would you like to find out more about Affluences' counting technologies for the transport sector? Contact us to be put in touch with our expert on the subject!



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