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Big data key to improving transport systems, says expert


Australian transport agencies are under-utilising the big data collected from GPS devices and smartphone apps, as well as losing an opportunity to transform network planning, according to a global transport expert.

Terry Bills, international smart transport specialist with Esri, said big data is often overlooked because of uncertainty over how to translate the raw information into meaningful insights.

Bills is travelling to Australia to speak at the 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Melbourne in October. At this event, he will demonstrate how to use advanced location-based analytics to increase mobility and create more livable smart cities. He will also meet with key transportation agencies from across Australia to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by big data.

“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 … flooding in every day,” 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,” he said.

Such an approach could assist Australian transport agencies in predicting the value of new routes and infrastructure, while enabling them to model various incentives and strategies on particular routes. This would in turn 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.

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

Its 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.

“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,” he said.

Australian smart transport specialist Evan Quick said that with Australia’s population expected to increase to 30 million by 2031, the pressure on authorities and commercial enterprises to deliver intelligent transport systems that are reliable, efficient, safe, sustainable and accessible has never been greater.

“Traffic congestion and its impact on local business is forecast to cost $20 billion a year by 2020,” said Quick.

“Australia’s transport agencies must explore new approaches, such as advanced location-based analytics, to drive greater returns from their big data reservoirs.”

Presenting travel patronage data in the visual format of a map provides new perspectives on information and clearly identifies where there might be scope in the network to initiate positive change.

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