The uses of data from Smartcard systems for public transport management

13 June 2007  •  Author(s): Peter White and Mousumi Bagchi, Transport Studies Group, University of Westminster

The growing provision of smartcard systems has been documented in recent articles in this journal – for example the development of ITSO-compatible systems, and of contactless cards, in issue 2 of 2007. Examples such as ‘Oyster’ in London and ’Octopus’ in Hong Kong are well-known and now account for high share of public transport use on those cities. While speed of operation and the ability to check validity of cards are an obvious reason for this adoption, it is also important to bear in mind the extensive potential for management information from such cards.

For each journey, a record is usually obtained of the serial number of the card used, the fare stage or station at which a boarding took place, the route number, and time of boarding. Where a card is unique to a named individual (such as a pensioner’s concessionary pass), the trips recorded correspond to those of that person; where a card is transferable (as for some stored value cards) then journeys by more than one individual may be recorded. To date, in Britain, only the boarding stage has been recorded for bus travel, whereas entry and exit reading on the London Underground permits both ends of the journey to be recorded.

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