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RTPI Speaker Preview: Stuart Lowrie, Senior Professional Officer, The City of Edinburgh Council

“Will there ever be a case for removing on-street displays?”

Stuart Lowrie, Senior Professional Officer, The City of Edinburgh Council

Stuart Lowrie, Senior Professional Officer, The City of Edinburgh Council

Bustracker – Edinburgh’s Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) system – was first operated in 2004, developed and implemented via a successful partnership between The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), Lothian Buses and the system supplier, Ineo. The system now incorporates the entire Lothian Buses fleet and has 400 on-street displays on a network of approximately 2,300 bus stops. The project continues to be a success, with on-going commitment by dedicated staff in CEC, Lothian Buses and Ineo.

Demand for new on-street displays is still high but the increasing revenue pressure associated with new display installations means that these are now only provided in small numbers and are focussed on key stops, based on proximity to schools, universities, interchange points, health facilities and shops etc. Recognition came early in the project that with current radio based display technology CEC would be unable to afford to provide displays at all stops. The ability to provide RTPI information via other more affordable means led to the development of the ‘mybustracker’1 website, where RTPI for all bus stops served by Lothian Buses could be easily accessed via PC and also via a WAP and mobile-friendly site. Early interest in accessing the information was good and developed steadily through marketing and publicity.

Demand for the web-based information really exploded following the development of an iPhone app, closely followed by an Android app, both of which were developed by members of the public. This then led to improvements in the system to cater for larger demands and the development of an Application Programming Interface (API) to aid app development. Hits on the CEC web server now consistently exceed 500,000 (inclusive of refreshes) during weekdays and server records show that this is not only increasing but that smartphone hits have now grown to be the source of the majority of requests for information.

This trend has led CEC to question what now? Where do they go from here to encourage further use of the information? Who is using the information now and who will be using it in future? Will there ever be a case for removing the on-street displays?

CEC appointed White Young Green consultants to carry out some statistical analysis in a bid to answer these questions. The statistics toolset was greatly enhanced in recent web development work and data covering number of hits, per month, day, hour and specific bus stops are all recorded. These requests have been charted and mapped in a bid to understand the distribution of requests and user behaviour.

Which bus stops are receiving the most requests for information? What device is being used to access the information? Is there an on-street display there? Should CEC take displays away from stops where most passengers seem to have web-based mobiles or smart – phones? What stops receive very few requests and why is this? What can be done to make these stops more popular?

CEC now has access to comprehensive and reliable data and this talk will present their analysis and discuss predictions for future demand and traveller expectations in this rapidly evolving technological environment.