Most Brazilian metropolises have a transport network operated by a private company which makes it difficult for transport authorities to have a bright view of the public transport functioning. TRANCITY is a public transport monitoring dashboard which integrates different sources of data, such as bus location, ticketing and cameras, providing real time and historical information that supports management, planning and the operation of public transport networks, with data driven evidence.
Cities are complex systems. Local decisions affect their functioning, in often unpredictable ways. It is increasingly necessary for managers to base their decisions on data and evidence to help predict the consequences and monitor the effects of those decisions. However, making correct and timely decisions based on a confusing array of information obtained from diverse sources remains a challenge. The many contemporary monitoring systems generate a huge mass of data and much of it is currently not being used in daily decision-making processes. This occurs when the data generated are not transformed into information, are not available at the right time or are not contextualised for the specific use.
As the volume of data grows, analyses become more complex and demand greater computing power, storage space, and more advanced processing systems. Many types of data are generated (both from the transport operation and from external sources that interfere directly in the transport system). Therefore, it is necessary to create relationships between the various data sources and to store events in a structured way, facilitating their retrieval from multiple criteria that allow trend analysis and situational awareness. Decision-making amidst this complexity requires the integration of data and processes from various sources so that choices are effective and consider the complexity of the urban environment.
Furthermore, for managers or control teams to be confident in their decisions, it is necessary that information is visible quickly, accessible in a precise manner and contextualised for each actor in the definition process, i.e. organised according to their activity or need. Data storage should also be done in a way to ensure scalability and agility in the search for information through a platform that integrates and correlates in real time information from various systems and/or subsystems, sensors, and databases, organised in multi-layers simultaneously in a single environment.
Summing up to this, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact in the urban mobility system all over the world, and public managers and bus operators had to deal with an even more dynamic demand, as urban mobility behaviours were shaken up. In this sense, we have made Trancity available for all Brazilian state capitals, and that’s how our cooperation with BHTrans started.
For these reasons Scipopulis developed the TRANCITY platform. Based on data such as the GTFS transport network schedule, bus positioning (GPS), ticketing data and other available data sources, the platform calculates metrics such as average speeds, circulating fleet and line frequency and is able to generate reports that help identify bottlenecks, changes in transport demand and supply and the impact of problems according to the number of passengers.
Trancity comes to revolutionise traditional transport planning methodologies assisting public servants on their daily transit management and control tasks, and finally contributing to the creation of more human and sustainable cities and providing better service to their citizens.
In short, the operation of cities - in particular, the management, operation, and planning of transport - benefits from a Data Management, Integration and Visualisation Platform, which allows all the actors involved, i.e. public managers, operators, and citizens, to obtain consistent information through a unified interface. Subscribing to Trancity, municipalities can have a high-quality planning and analytics platform which costs less than the average wage of a data scientist.
Trancity is set to be constantly evolving. Nowadays Trancity is running in 15 cities in LATAM and Europe. Our data architecture and infrastructure are ready to receive more and more data from other cities.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Trancity combine the use of cutting-edge technologies in the computing area, such as cloud infrastructure, platforms and techniques for processing huge amount of data (big data of real time location and ticketing system from thousands of buses, alerts such as flooding, traffic accidents, and video monitoring), the use of machine learning algorithms for prediction and automation of data analysis and recent techniques to protect privacy in the processing of personal data.
Trancity also has a module that estimates the volume of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, from each bus circulating through the city, based its average speed and details about the vehicle (such as its engine technology, and type of fuel). The platform is offered as a Software as a Service, with unlimited number of users for a given organisation, and every new feature implemented is available for all users and clients.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Our platform has already been used by 15 different cities in Latin America and Europe and we are ready to serve new customers. Today we are working on the implementation of new functionalities such as the automation of analysis of origin-destination and passenger flows, using ticketing data.
Collaborations & Partnerships
BHTrans officials, our partners in this pilot, after a first period using Trancity, asked for customizations in our platform to be made and facilitate their daily tasks, such as the visualisation of all traffic lights in the city, the flood risk areas, the analysis by user-defined areas/polygons and not only by corridor. All these customizations are very important because we are addressing the real necessities of the ones who need those information.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens benefit from a more reliable and fair public transport, and information once the analysis was used to communicate with them at Twitter. BHTrans reported that they make modifications to the transit lines quicker and now are able to measure the impact of proposed actions, for instance traffic lights time and itinerary modifications. Also, they were able to further charge the terms of the contract, as they had evidence based on data, representing an efficiency gain for public management.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
- Better transit planning for public managers: origin-destination matrices directly from the ticketing system (instead of one matrix every 10 years, with traditional methods).
- Better communication with population: i.e. CO2 and pollutants emissions measurements in real-time, and comparison to the sustainable development goals (instead of estimations using a large-scale approach).
- We measured the number of buses monitored on our platform, which today stands at 28,000, which corresponds to 16 million passengers and a total of more than 56 million citizens who can benefit from improved services, planned from the use of the platform.
Challenges and Failures
One challenge was to adapt the bureaucratic processes with the dynamics of the pandemics and the speed of information provided by Trancity. Even though public managers were able to detect lines where the bus offer was not adapted to demand, the bureaucratic process required to modify service orders introduced huge delays on the adaptation of public transport during pandemics. The lessons learned will inform the next bidding process so that new contracts can be more easily and dynamically adapted.
There was also a challenge related to integrating Waze data into Trancity. Even though we had already worked with Waze before, Waze does not yet provide licences for private partners. We would have to be a sub-licensee for the city of Belo Horizonte, which didn't happen in time for the project despite our efforts. We contacted Waze about this case and they are trying to support new licensing modes so that private partners can work along with cities using Waze data to solve traffic problems.
Conditions for Success
It is very important that public authorities own transit data so they can use and manage as it is more convenient for the population. Indeed, to make Trancity work it needs two types of data: Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) and a General Transit Feed System (GTFS). In many cities where private operators run the bus network, the granting authority doesn’t have access to the AVL data, whether because the private operator owns it, or only because it is not clearly specified in the terms of the contract that the AVL data should be published as open data.
Also, most of the cities don’t yet have the public transport data in a structured GTFS format. It can be very time and cost consuming to produce it from scratch. It is also important that there is continuity over different mandates, that technical teams are able to rely on high-quality systems independently of the mayor party. That the solution implemented is not discontinued from a term to another.
Our innovation was firstly designed to meet the demand of the São Paulo Municipality, for better management and control of their bus network. Since then, our innovation has been deployed in more than 15 cities in Latin America and Europe, providing a high-quality solution for cities varying from 150,000 to more than 12 million inhabitants. In its actual state, Trancity fits in any city in the world, and as it is in constant evolution, with new features being developed constantly, there is an immense potential to be continuously replicated to more and more cities, because Trancity uses data in a global standard format.
This project allowed us to learn a number of things. First of all, bus contracts must be quickly adapted to a new reality of more dynamic cities, where the demand for transport can vary drastically from one day to the other. This is a fundamental issue if we want to use data to have bus networks better adapted to citizen demands. We also learnt that the possibilities of using data to improve traffic and transport management are endless. The city of Belo Horizonte already had other demands for data integration such as using Waze data to compare bus traffic with car traffic and integrating bus speed data with semaphore programming to automatically give priority to buses to improve operational speed.
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
23 January 2023