In October 2018, ITP was awarded one of the first Transport Technology Research and Innovation for International Development (TTRIID) grants by the Department for International Development in the UK. The proposed project envisioned a prototype tool to help in understanding public transport networks in low-income countries, where we have significant experience in helping optimise local transport networks through analysis and monitoring projects.
Cities in developing economies often suffer from unregulated local transport networks, with informal services, high levels of congestion, and poor safety and air quality. Local governing bodies often lack the transport modelling staff and expertise to enforce regulatory controls, meaning that poor transport options continue to have adverse effects upon the local population and economy. Even where local agencies and development bank partners seek to make improvements, understanding the local situation can be challenging without a clear picture of what transport does exist.
The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) has emerged as a popular data format for recording of transport timetables, and is also flexible enough to be used with surveying even where transport is informal. Many cities publish open data GTFS feeds or can use them to power journey planners or analysis applications. ITP (and its sister company Conveyal) have pioneered the use of GTFS to analyse city transport networks in different countries, identifying priority areas for investment or intervention. The prototype software tool developed through this project complements existing tools available by matching transport routes to local OpenStreetMap road networks.
Performing this ‘linking’ allows aggregation and visualisation across different parts of a city’s transport network, identification of bottlenecks and understanding of capacity issues on different routes. This is because unlike other tools, data about routes can be aggregated from a very fine level of detail (the street network ‘link’ used by each route). The use of more granular data means that the transport situations for individual Transit Explorer corridors or neighbourhoods can be rapidly understood, highlighting congested areas or opportunities for rerouting. The temporal data within GTFS can also be used to filter by time of day and understand different days of the week. Whilst the current prototype does not currently capture demand-side data such as patronage (passenger volume), the software presents this future possibility of better capturing passenger movements through additional use of survey or ticketing data.
The software prototype was developed by ITP over four months, and tested in live project locations including Freetown, Sierra Leone and Dhaka, Bangladesh. GTFS collected through survey work in these locations was loaded and the interactivity of the tool demonstrated, allowing local users to explore public transport at different spatial scales. Testing with local experts (and partners such as development bank teams) helped identify priorities for next steps and the most important further features required to successfully continue development of the tool. This report lists these further features and potential avenues for funding continued development of the tool to maximise the benefits of its use in developing cities, where better understanding of existing infrastructure can help support the case for investment or stronger local regulation.
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