Leading Thinking

Has Auckland Transport found the answer to the city's traffic problems?06th June 2017

Auckland Transport has joined forces with global technology giant Microsoft in a bid to make the gruelling daily commute a walk in the park.

With an estimated 800 new cars on Auckland's roads every day and growing frustration at traffic jams, AT hopes the new system will allow it make real-time, informed decisions to improve travel for everyone.

The partnership aims for

• One nationwide payment method that can be used to for buses, ferries and trains.

• The same method to pay for bike lockers - a box in which a bike can be placed and locked in - at some bus and train stations.

• Up-to-date information on traffic delays and accidents using data from public transport users, traffic cameras, loops (sensors installed in the road to detect vehicles), counters for bikes on the road network, and realtime tracking of bus, train and ferry positions.

• Tailored information on the AT app which will tell commuters of delays and incidents and suggest alternative routes or travel methods.

AT's chief technology officer Roger Jones said one of the main goals is to allow customers to make an informed decision about their best choice of transport on a daily basis, through the new AT Mobile app.

"The vision is, if you're sitting at home in the morning wondering how you should get to work and you're not sure if it's going to rain or not or you're not sure if things are running on time or not, the app will inform you about your best choice of transport... and the expected timeline.

"The real impact is people expect to be able to travel round the city quickly and efficiently and today a lot of people do that by cars. We will replace that over time with other modes of transport that will get them there just as efficiently and just quickly and cheaper."

Jones said otherwise Aucklanders are "going to grind ourselves to a gridlock".

He gave an example of someone catching a ferry and then a bus to get home at night but, because of bad weather, the ferry is running late.

"Do we hold the bus at the end and wait for the ferry connection or not?" he said.

"Currently that's not managed so what we want to do is manage that because we will know from our customer database and the data we have, how many passengers we have on the ferry and how many of those passengers are likely to catch the bus.

"So we will be able to make informed decisions about making the bus stay and wait for those passenger ferries."

The proposed changes are expected to be gradually rolled out over the next two to three years.

Jones said trials were also in progress of a system that would allow people to use one account for all forms of transport, nationwide.

"Ultimately where we want to get to is your transport is seamless, not only in Auckland but around the country, and your payment for that is seamless."

Microsoft New Zealand's chief digital advisor Mark Butterworth said AT will make travelling easier by using artificial intelligence based on information such as who the commuter is, where they are trying to go and what is happening on the network.

"One of the features we hope for is we can predict in advance what your journey will be across the modes so you can plan your days better.

"The way [AT] is engaging with customers and trying to make a digital city is certainly right on the edge of all the cities that [Microsoft] see around the world. So, we want to learn from Auckland and this experience in Auckland to help us help other customers," said Butterworth.

Sourced: NZ Herald

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