About this good practice
During the pandemic, several restrictions were put in place to prevent possible contagion from Covid19. Among these, Italy has adopted restrictions on public transport capacity, and especially buses. The capacity percentage has changed over time based on the time of the year.
Since November 2020, the travel planner RogER has introduced icons that inform the user about the passenger capacity of the bus, so a red icon indicates that the bus is running at full (or close to full) capacity, an orange icon that the bus is moderately full and a green icon that the bus is empty or with little number of passengers. The user can check the capacity level of the bus within 5 minutes from it reaching the bus stop. The colour is based on a percentage indicated by national regulations. So, if regulations demand that maximum capacity is 80%, red will indicate this capacity.
The GP is particularly interesting because of the way the capacity level is calculated. In fact, the algorithm uses the bus system to receive the signal from the mobile phones which are present on the bus. If a mobile phone has wifi on, the system will receive its signal in an anonymous way and use it to count the number of passengers that are onboard. The system checks every 40 seconds if that specific signal is still nearby, this way it can distinguish passengers on board and other people who are not on the bus (e.g. pedestrian just walking close to the bus).
TPER used internal resources to develop the algorithm. A precise estimation is not available but all considered probably less than 50 000 euros.
Every bus was already equipped with on board computer with a wifi system, which was previously used only to download data at the end of the working day.
Evidence of success
The icon system will be kept because it was proven a way to improve accessibility on buses. All buses in Ferrara and Bologna are now fully functioning with this system, so they provide real time information over the capacity level. Feedback from users was good (TPER has a system to check the satisfaction of its users). The system was proven also useful to detect some buses on which the wifi system was not working, therefore to make a check of the equipment of the bus.
Potential for learning or transfer
The main beneficiaries of this good practice are public transport users who use the regional travel planner RogER. This system greatly helps users to decide whether to board that specific bus or to wait for another, less busy, bus. It is a simple yet effective way based on real-time information.
Given its limited timeframe for setup (just 6 months), we consider this GP highly transferrable. The prerequisites for this good practice transfer are:
- Presence of wifi system on all the buses
- Travel planner/app to buy tickets
- Internal resources that can fine tune the system based on the local contex