2016 in transport

2016 has been a rollercoaster year in politics, entertainment and sports. We’ve had a referendum, a change of government, and a US election, to name just a few things. For me, this has been my first year at UTG (I joined in May), I’ve learned so much and lots of interesting things have been going on. So, I’m going to try and wrap up the big things that have happened in transport into this post.

Internally, it’s been a big year at UTG. In January 2016, Transport for London became full members, and what had been pteg became the Urban Transport Group. And since then we’ve gone from strength to strength, drawing in new policy areas such as taxis and private hire vehicles, and tackling big questions, like the value of emerging data for transport and the role of transport in delivering inclusive growth.

The Buses Bill

The Buses Bill has been a big theme in transport this year, with its passage through the House of Lords, and looks set to move into the House of Commons next year. The Buses Bill will make it easier for local transport authorities to franchise networks of buses, allowing bus services to be provided as they are in London elsewhere. This will deliver improvements for passengers and integration of ticketing. You can find out more about our work on the Buses Bill here including our Bus Services Bill FAQs.

bus-in-huddersfield

Data

Big data, open data, transport data, it’s all in vogue! On my second day at UTG we held a workshop with the Future Cities Catapult to discuss emerging data and transport, to try and tease out the opportunities and challenges around maximising the potential of transport data. Following this, we produced our ‘Getting Smart on Data’ report, which offers some recommendations of ways to overcome some of these challenges and barriers in order to utilise the wealth of emerging data.

Air Quality

Air quality has been making headlines this year, particularly as the health implications of NOx and particulate emissions become ever more apparent. Some European cities have been making bold statement to address air pollution, with Paris banning cars and making public transport free to use during high pollution events. Sadiq Khan has made significant promises to tackle air pollution in London, including doubling funding to tackle the problem and Clean Air Zones are being imposed on a number of English cities, so this issue looks likely to remain at the top of transport agendas for some time to come.

Inclusive growth

Theresa May has made it clear that her government intends to deliver inclusive growth, including through the establishment of the Inclusive Growth Economy Unit in October 2016. Inclusive Growth has been on the agenda for other organisations, with the RSA opening the Inclusive Growth Commission. Inclusivity and transport is an area that UTG have been exploring for a long time, including examining the role for transport in accessing employment, the importance of transport for young people and the role transport plays in economic development. Check out our response to the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission to find out more.

Party conferences

As UTG, we attend both the Labour and Conservative party conferences. This year, we asked people to share their priorities for transport in cities, and you can read these blog posts to find out more about what came up at Labour and the Conservatives. There were many common themes across both conferences, with people asking for better cycling infrastructure, improved public transport and raising concerns about air quality, amongst many others.

conference-stand

What’s clear is that there are many different challenges facing the transport system, but transport also offers wider social and economic opportunities. Let’s see what 2017 has to offer.

getting-smart-on-data

Capitalising on emerging data by TfL’s Vernon Everitt, Managing Director for Customers, Communication and Technology

Consumer technology has radically changed how people live their lives. Take the example of how people navigate the road network: in the space of a few short years, drivers went from purchasing printed maps annually, to replacing them with satnavs that needed to be updated regularly, to replacing satnavs with free apps on their phones that show traffic conditions in real-time and, increasingly, predict what conditions may be later on.

Transport authorities have always gathered rich and complex data. We once collected this manually at great expensive and with a significant time-lag. We now do so in real-time, from ticketing and other systems, and make travel information freely and openly available to developers and others who use it to bring new products and services to our customers.

If we ask the right questions of that data, we can transform how people travel.

Data can help us obtain every ounce of capacity from the transport networks we have, helping to spread peak demand in public transport and roads and encouraging even more people to leave their cars at home and take public transport, walk or cycle.

Urban Transport Group members across the country are using the data they generate to improve the service they offer, and we are taking care not to get lost in data for data’s sake. It is being used for a clear purpose – to improve delivery for customers and help with investment decisions.

The report we have published today highlights some of the key questions we as transport authorities have to answer:

  • who is best placed to hold, develop and share our data?
  • how do we protect customers’ privacy?
  • how do we ensure the data is of the highest quality?
  • what skills do we need to develop to make the most of the data we generate?

We also call on national policy to keep pace through the Bus Services Bill and Modern Transport Bill, for example by, ensuring that the government clarifies ownership of bus supply data, including over fares, routes, frequencies, real-time data and other measures of service performance.

It also marks a new era within Urban Transport Group. We have established a smart-futures professional network, which will bring together our members to answer strategic and technical questions raised by big data.

One thing is certain: harnessing technology will never actually be “done”. And in any case, it isn’t the technology that matters. It is the purpose to which it is put we are interested in.

Through close co-operation and new partnerships with the technology and other sectors, we will ensure that we draw upon the data at our disposal to improve journeys for customers and plan our urban transport networks more effectively.

Vernon Everitt is Board member on Smart Futures for Urban Transport Group.

 

Five key takeaways on emerging data for transport

Uber app

Urban Transport Group and the Future Cities Catapult recently held a ‘Getting Smart on Data’ workshop, looking at the potential of emerging data in transport. On just my second day as a researcher with the UTG, it was a truly fascinating event and a dive head long into this dynamic area in transport. We bought together stakeholders from multiple transport authorities, from a range of roles including IT and transport modellers and planners, with representatives from industry and academia, to engage in conversations and shape the debate about the role of emerging data for transport.

Here are my five key takeaways from the day.

  1. Data is EVERYWHERE

We are generating data all the time, whether through our use of smart ticketing, our spending patterns, or location data from our phones. 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years. A growing volume of this data is at the disposal of the transport sector, however much remains inaccessible. In addition, the data that is being generated is diverse, diffuse and is being held and generated by numerous individuals and organisations, which creates barriers.

  1. Opening up is important

There has been a drive for increasing openness in data, with the UK Government opening up vast amounts of data through data.gov.uk and many other organisations following suit. This allows people to come into the market and gain added value from this data, for example, over 5,000 developers have registered for to use the TfL open data resulting in the development of hundreds of apps, tools and services. This is generating benefits for users of transport and enhancing the customer experience.

  1. But protecting people’s personal data is also critical

Individuals retain rights to data protection and it is important that developments in using emerging data adhere to existing and new regulation on this. This will be particularly prominent in transport, where personal data is collected through smart cards and other mechanisms, and in exploring options for utilising mobile data in transport, as this can take the form of sensitive personal information about travel patterns.

  1. The opportunities are massive

The potential of using new data sources for transport planning and modelling is huge, with mobile data in particular providing an invaluable resource for understanding people’s mobility behaviour. This holds promise for transport authorities to tap into emerging data, for improving analysis and generating new insight.

  1. The sector needs to keep pace and skill up

While the opportunities arising from emerging data sets are vast, the skills required may be missing from the traditional transport planning and modelling communities and they will need to explore ways of up skilling and drawing in new talent from the data and coding communities in order to fully exploit these opportunities. The pace of innovation in emerging data is fast, so the transport sector needs to work hard to keep up.

The event set me thinking about how much data I generate on a daily basis, whether through the location services on my smartphone or using my smart card on the bus and my contactless payment card for my shopping. Personally, I think questions around trust, security and transparency are key to managing and capitalising on the vast swathes of data that have, and will, emerge and making the best use of them for improving transport planning, modelling and services.

This is an exciting area so watch this space for more!

To find out more about data in cities by visiting the Future Cities Catapult website.