Thursday, June 30, 2011

Singapore transportation planning is data driven by business analytics

Singapore is small and densely populated and in this tiny island with 5 millions of people, 8.9 millions travel demands compete for very limited number of roads, taxis, trains, buses and private cars every day. By 2020, Land Transport Authority (LTA) expects the demand to increase to 14.3 million per day.  This huge extra demand cannot simply be satisfied by equal increase in travel resources given the available land size of the country.  Better planning and optimization of available resources is extremely important. [1]

For data driven policy making and planning, the data is already there. Each commuter in Singapore has a contactless smart card to pay for the public transportation fares. Each user tabs in and also out with this card when he takes a public bus or train. And every tab-in and tab-outs are recorded with details such as location and time. So the data showing the busy routes, busy times, bottle necks, etc. is there. But processing it into knowledge then informed decision is not straightforward. Just the sheer volume is a huge burden. Currently LTA captures 12 million records on public transport each day! This translates into 14 Terra bytes of more data each day! [1] How can they make convert this huge data to knowledge and then to decisions? Enter the world of Business Analytics.

Business Analytics (BA) “refers to the skills, technologies, applications and practices for continuous iterative exploration and investigation of past business performance to gain insight and drive business planning. Business analytics focuses on developing new insights and understanding of business performance based on data and statistical methods. “[2]

Singapore MRT Train

LTA has recently implemented a business analytics system named Planet (short for Planning for Land Transport Network).  Planet allows LTA to have insight into the usage patterns of public transportation system and enables data driven policy and planning decisions.

This Business Analytics system cost 10 million to LTA and developed by Teradata, a vendor specializing in data warehousing and analytic applications.

Some useful information rendered out from this system[3]:
MRT is most crowded between 8 am to 8:20 am and 6 pm to 6:30 pm in weekdays.
By 9 am in a weekday, crowd on MRT trains drops to 44 per cent of peak load.
Bu stops at Somerset MRT station on Somerset Road and Toa Payoh Swimming complex are the busiest ones.
Woodlands, Tampines and Yishun MRT stations are the busiest stations to top up ez-link cards.

[1] - Transportation Innovation 
[2] – Wikipedia Business Analytics
[3] – The best times to travel on public transport - Business DL, The Strait Times

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