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Credit: Twitter post of NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance MP

Credit: Twitter post of NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance MP

New South Wales releases train occupancy data for transport apps to improve transport efficiency

Train commuters in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) can now choose the best train carriage to board based on real-time train occupancy data displayed via an app. Currently accessible to more than 600 000 daily commuter rides on the latest Waratah trains which service 54% of all train trips, the data can be accessed via transportnsw.info, or the TripView, NextThere, Anytrip, TripGo and Opal Travel apps. Besides transport applications, the Facebook Messenger chatbot RITA also displays real-time train occupancy data.

Utilising in-built weight sensors on Waratah trains, the app determines the occupancy of each individual train carriage and continually updates each time the train doors shut. Commuters can now “see how  full their train is before it arrives”, according to NSW Premier Ms Gladys Berejiklian. Via the apps, commuters will be informed of which carriages have seats available, and which carriages are full.

While transportation data has been made available to the public since the launch of Transport for New South Wales’s Open Data web portal in April 2016, this move adopts a more service-centric approach to improving the commuter experience.  “For customers who commute home from Wynyard to Penrith, for example, getting a seat can be a major factor in deciding which carriage to board,” said Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance. “Letting customers know which services might be full, or which carriages still have seats will make commuting choices easier and help ease congestion.”

Since April 2016, Transport for NSW’s Open Data web portal has provided public access to transport data, providing opportunities for public-private collaborations on Big Data solutions for transport commuters in NSW.

Still, even as the service-oriented move confers a degree of autonomy to commuters, the release of train occupancy data does not address existing infrastructural deficits which have made congestion on Sydney’s subway lines a perpetual issue. Open access to Big Data in the field of transportation may provide a catalyst for generating innovative solutions for NSW’s transport future, but the issue of poor transport infrastructure and contentious infrastructural investments such as the Sydney CBD light rail remain unresolved. 

According to a recent article published by the Sydney Morning Herald, latest figures indicate that “crowding on Sydney's trains has worsened significantly in just a year”, and that it has led to “greater pressure on an aged rail network struggling to cope with a booming population”.

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