Automatic passenger counting to be trialled on London buses

With the focus of improving passengers’ journeys, especially passengers with reduced mobility, Transport for London is investigating how best to collect the relevant information

- London, England
Automatic passenger counting to be trialled on London buses

Transport for London (TfL) is beginning a three-month trial to identify how best to automatically count passengers on buses.

The trial, which will begin on 8 June, will assess which techniques best capture passenger numbers in real time. This could enable TfL to improve its services, provide better real-time travel information and help prioritise investment – all while being cheaper and more reliable than current manual counts.

A better understanding of how full London’s buses are has the potential to provide customers with improved real-time information for better journey planning and information such as the available accessible space.

It could implement a more effective management of the bus network, helping to ensure any unplanned diversions cause minimal passenger disruption whilst bettering the bus planning and forecasting for the future.

Simon Reed, Head of Surface Technology and Data at TfL, said: “This short trial is an exciting opportunity to make it easier for everyone to use buses in London. We use a range of methods, such as ticketing data and manual paper surveys, to understand how customers travel across London, but we cannot measure in real time the number of people on a given bus. We hope this trial will show us the best way to identify real-time bus usage, which in turn could help us plan our network better, run it more effectively and greatly enhance live customer information.” 

The trial will run on seven buses and will assess automatic counting techniques including cameras aimed at the bus floor observing footsteps, real-time analysis of existing safety camera footage, sensors over each door of the bus, analysis of the changes to the buses weight and air pressure and the use of depersonalised Wi-Fi connection data.

All Wi-Fi data collected during the trial will be automatically depersonalised at the point of collection with no browsing data collected and no individuals identified. Buses trialling the CCTV, sensors or Wi-Fi techniques will display posters to ensure passengers are aware of the trial and further information is available on TfL’s website.

Steve Chambers, Public Transport Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It is really good to see the latest bus technology being trialled in London with the potential to allow passengers to make informed choices about their journeys based on how busy each upcoming bus will be. Passengers with reduced mobility who require the accessible space could have the most to gain from the deployment of enhanced passenger information following the successful conclusion of this trial.”

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