NUMBER ONE
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January 10 2018
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News


The power of your data

CitySwifter is a start-up company that’s changing the face of traditional bus timetables. We find out more about the innovative technology

In most cases, bus timetables are static – the same routes run at the same times on the same days, maybe changing depending on the season.

This can often result in inefficient services running at times that may not always make sense, or not running at opportune times, as the case can sometimes be.

That’s where CitySwifter comes in. The Irish start-up company is using the power of data to optimise bus schedules to match passengers’ actual journey requirements.

Who’s behind it?

The co-founders of CitySwifter are Alan Farrelly, who is the second generation of a family who have been operating buses for over 40 years, and Brian O'Rourke who comes from a technology and data background – a combination that will hold them in good stead.

Co-founders Alan Farrelly (L) and Brian O'Rourke

Says Alan: “We have a team of transport, data and technology experts who are all passionate about shared transport.”

The company was founded in 2016. Says Brian: “Since then we’ve been building the business up in Ireland, working two major cities – Dublin and Galway.”

With funding from Enterprise Ireland, CitySwifter is piloting its solution on a number of high-frequency routes across the UK.

“Over the last four-six months, we’ve been going back and forth to England more and more, meeting and working with bus companies over here,” says Brian.

Looking into the future

CitySwifter works with bus operators, using the operator’s own transport data and mixes it with other data from around 25 different sources, to look at all the things that can affect and influence passenger demand for buses or journey times.

The aim is to then predict what the passenger demand is going to be at each bus stop along each route of the bus network.

Says Brian: “By doing that, as well as analysing what happens in the past, we can look at what might happen in the future. We can then re-allocate bus scheduling and timetabling to match passenger demand and journey times, so that operators can cut out inefficiencies within the scheduling aspect of their business.”

Alan adds: “It could mean only changing a timetable schedule by only a minute but, over the course of a year, that can mean a huge saving for the operator.”

The main aim

CitySwifter uses its software and a bus operator’s data to optimise the frequency and scheduling of its vehicles and drivers.

CitySwifter’s aim is to move operators away from static timetables 

"Currently bus operators tend to only have three timetables: Monday-Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” says Alan. “Our solution gives operators the ability to predict demand and journey times and create data-driven schedules every week that significantly increases operational efficiency and reliability.”

Adds Brian: “The same timetable used on a Friday will be used on a Tuesday, even though demand is much higher on a Friday, for example.”

The company’s aim is to therefore move operators away from static timetables to a more dynamic approach.

Giving notice

With CitySwifter, it’s about giving operators enough notice so they can plan schedule alterations in advance with minimal additional workload and seamless integration with existing systems and processes. Says Alan: “Operators wouldn’t be changing a bus schedule in the morning for the afternoon. There is that period of notice given, but it’s just doing it more dynamically so that the higher efficiencies can be achieved.”

This then allows operators to put a plan in place and gives them enough notice to schedule the drivers and the vehicles onto the routes.

Adds Alan: “That’s the short-term goal, but also you can see patterns whereby population demographics are changing and more people are starting to use the bus. So we look at such patterns to tell operators ‘this is going to be a growth route over the six-12 months and this is an area you should concentrate on’.

“It’s not just about looking to improve bus services, but it’s also about looking at a possible marketing campaign to attract more people on the buses because there is a big growth area for a company.”

Catapulting ahead

CitySwifter has been selected for Transport Systems Catapult’s Intelligent Mobility Accelerator programme.

CitySwifter is in Milton Keynes on a six-month support programme for start-ups

The six-month support programme began on 29 November based in Milton Keynes. It is designed to attract start-ups into the UK transport industry and help create solutions in areas such as connected and autonomous vehicles, connected infrastructure, customer experience and transport data and analysis.

Says Alan: “The programme is going to give us access to a lot more data sources, the best practices in security and data, and also contacts and connections within the industry.

“It will also give us access to industry experts. Not just bus operators, but also local city councils, government agencies, large corporates and the decision makers to see what is the best way to shape future bus transport in the UK.”

Find out more
www.cityswifter.com
www.ts.catapult.org.uk
www.wayra.co.uk/intelligentmobility



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