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Enhancing Singapore’s bus system with technology

Nurdianah Md Nur | May 22, 2015
LTA leveraged analytics to prevent a mismatch between supply and demand of buses, as well as upgraded its fare collection system to improve reliability.

Ensuring an efficient land transport system for a densely populated country is no easy feat but could be made less challenging with the use of technology, as illustrated by Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) case.

According to Jonah Ong, LTA's deputy director of Data Analytics & Geospatial Information Systems, it was challenging to meet the diverse transportation needs of Singapore's growing population of 5.5 million commuters with only 12 percent of 718.3km of land space for roads. His team thus turned to Tableau's data analytics and visualisation platform to provide sufficient buses at different times of the day.  

"[By analysing and correlating data from commuter farecards, bus and taxi data,] we are able to sense what is happening on the ground, better understand the demands and come up with ways to best optimise our resources to meet the demands," said Ong.

He added that through analytics, his team was able to identify hotspots and buses with high passenger volume. Coupling these insights with Tableau's visualisation tools, LTA was able to pinpoint routes with demand-supply mismatch and address issues such as bus bunching. Bus bunching happens when two buses arrive at the same bus stop at the same time even though they were scheduled to be evenly spaced along the same route.

"As a result of using analytics, our buses are now 60 percent less crowded and the average waiting time for buses now range from three to seven minutes. We've also introduced City Direct Services between selected residential estates and the city areas, based on the identified areas and bus routes with high passenger volume, to ease crowdedness."

To further improve the efficiency of buses in Singapore, the LTA awarded a S$68 million contract to ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) and Trapeze Switzerland GMBH Consortium last year to build and deploy a new centralised bus fleet management system.

Currently, the republic's main transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT are using  separate systems to manage their daily bus operations and provide bus arrival information to commuters. With the new system, both operators will be able to issue timely advisories to bus drivers, better optimise fleet resources by despatching buses to where they are needed, and disseminate more accurate bus arrival timing to commuters.  

Ensuring reliability of payments
Besides meeting commuters' demands for buses, LTA has also leveraged technology to ensure the reliability of the bus fare system.

Just yesterday (20 May 2015), LTA announced that its subsidiary, MSI Global, has implemented an enhanced version of fare collection system QNX Nutrino OS in more than 4,800 buses in Singapore to replace existing equipment due for replacement.

The QNX Nutrino OS was chosen due to its resilient architecture, which minimises attack vectors, said MSI. The solution also ensures reliability even when multiple subsystems are multitasking, thereby minimising failures in the demanding operating environment of buses, added MSI.     

 

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