Technology and Innovation (TE)

Technology and Innovation (TE)

We believe that Technology and innovation forms a separate area of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) and is core to all other deliverable objectives.

There is an emphasis within the authority on developing, managing, supporting, and delivering innovative programmes and projects related to Transport and highways which has resulted in delivering a variety of next generation and cost-effective solutions.

We have proven experience in the adoption and development of new and innovative solutions. 

With our strategic partners, we have delivered various innovative firsts which include: E-ink Displays, 10” Interactive Screens, Solar Shelter Technology, Optimisation and Scheduling Systems and we are in the process of delivering the first of its type Mobility Hub in the UK. 

Our experience in dealing with technology and innovation provides us with an understanding of how Technology and innovation can drive improvements.

The delivery objectives for Technology and Innovation in this iteration of the BSIP and subject to funding are:

Associated survey analysis

  • over 80% of all respondents were in agreement with the status:
    • "Worcestershire County Council should consider supporting new technology initiatives (Passenger Transport Survey 2019)"
  • 19% of respondents stated that bus design, comfort and condition should be improved (Transport Focus 2019)
  • 18% of respondents stated that punctuality should be improved

Expand Worcestershire Real Time Information System (TER)

We have, in recent years, been working to improve the provision of travel information throughout our transport network to improve and enhance accessible real time information (where available from operators), especially on main transport corridors.

The introduction of RTIS (Real Time Information System) is pivotal to our strategy to support and grow the commercial bus market in the County. Bus journey times and reliability through use are improved, which leads to increased public confidence, satisfaction, and usage.

Worcestershire RTIS is made up of several core components;

  • a central unit that can track the location of buses and predict their arrival time at stops
  • a corresponding tracking system on buses including roll out of Smart enabled ticket machines.
  • deliver Intelligent traffic signal priority (TSP) that can prioritise late-running buses at key junctions
  • in-shelter displays predicting the arrival time of the next buses
  • ability to access predicted arrival times from websites and smartphones
  • innovative RTIS Information points at key and strategic locations
    • to check arrival time of the next bus, wayfinding, tourist or active travel information

We believe Worcestershire has developed a cost effective and innovative RTIS that provides residents with enhanced real time information. 

As part of this BSIP Worcestershire is committed to deliver RTIS to all shelters on strategic corridors as well as further enhance the use of next generation information and touch screen technology. Key benefits of Worcestershire RTIS include;

  • gives passengers reassurance and confidence in using public transport
  • potential to increase patronage on buses
  • gain traffic priority which will help with punctuality and build public confidence
  • operators better access to “live information” so can provide better and more optimum services
  • better wayfinding and access to Worcestershire Information. Includes enhanced opportunities for self-service and promotion
  • ability for Smart ticketing in initiatives through Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs) distributed as part of the Real Time Project
  • access for those with visual impairments through RNIB Technology, Tap and Talk and Digital Assistant
    • RNIB - Royal National Institute of Blind people
  • ability for neighbouring authorities to use Worcestershire RTIS components

We have worked with the supply chain to deliver enhanced information wherever possible, providing the travelling public with everything they will need to make decisions about their journey planning.

This has included:

  • utilising Point of Interest (POI) functionality 

    simple Ordnance Survey-style graphics on the display allow us to highlight when a service is passing key locations within Worcester such as historical sites, the Worcestershire Royal Hospital or other transport interchange locations (such as Worcester Shrub Hill Rail station) - this also supports the authority promoting modal integration

  • leveraging our social media 

    we provide passengers with key updates on network quality through our authority-run social media channels – leveraging these and showing the same update throughout our information estate allows us to ensure consistency of messaging and minimises the platforms that we must update to distribute that messaging

Subject to funding, we want to increase the number of passengers that we can reach with information and target transport interchanges, major trip attractors and hubs with increased provision for passenger information.

This will be especially relevant for areas we are targeting, where new demand responsive services will intersect with scheduled services within the authority. It is our goal to use the increased provision of real time information and improved infrastructure to promote bus as a viable option over personal use cars.

Strategic Corridor Shelter Analysis – Real Time Displays

In line with improvements to the main strategic network within Worcestershire we also wish to deliver a programme of infrastructure replacement ensuring that these meet the various targets outlines throughout the document. 

Our aspiration is to deliver a programme as per the table below to increase the number of RTI displays throughout the County and on Strategic Corridors.

BSIP Targets

  • TER1  – increase in number of devices installed providing Real Time Information
    • Targets based on Strategic Corridor analysis
  • TER2 –  improve average % of journeys being tracked
  • improve journey time on impacted routes (JT)
  • improve reliability of services on impacted routes (RT)
  • improve in public perception of bus travel in worcestershire (CS)

Consider Net Zero objectives when considering infrastructure (TEZ)

We have set out to do this by employing a range of both traditional technologies (in-shelter real time information displays) and innovative technologies aimed at increasing accessibility to a greater breadth of information whilst simultaneously increasing their ability to harness renewable energy sources that are more environmentally friendly and drive down the ongoing costs of authority-wide systems.

We have been successfully implementing solar and low-powered technologies within our transport network to reduce the carbon footprint of the authority whilst at the same time maintaining the high level of real time and scheduled travel information available to the travelling public. 

We are committed to using this type of technology as the first option when delivering Real Time information.

Building on the success of installing a solar-powered, real time passenger information display back in 2016 and where funding is available.

We are working with strategic partners and are currently looking to develop and install several shelters that are powered by both wind turbines and solar panels which will be completely “off grid” and is estimated that these save 3.6 metric tonnes of Carbon over 10 years.

BSIP Targets

  • TEZ1  – increase number of installed Net Zero RTI displays
  • TEZ2 – monitor carbon Tonnes saved through installations
  • TEZ3 – monitor cost savings/ avoidance through installations
  • improve journey time on impacted routes (JT)
  • improve reliability of services on impacted routes (RT)
  • improve in public perception of bus travel in Worcestershire (CS)

Deliver Ultra-Low and Zero Emission Buses within the County (ZEB)

We are committed to delivering ultra-low and zero emission buses. We were unsuccessful in our bid to become the first Electric Vehicle Bus Town but have moved to phase 2 of the Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) for Bromsgrove and Redditch Districts.

We know through the development of the EV Bus Town and Zebra Expression of interest that unlike in many parts of the neighbouring West Midlands conurbation, the bus fleet serving Bromsgrove and the wider area tends to be older and mainly Euro 3 to Euro 5, with a smaller proportion of vehicles to the latest Euro 6 standard. 

This is partly because areas like Worcestershire tend to have buses that have been cascaded from the larger conurbations. This is a key challenge for Worcestershire and creates a health issue for all our residents as buses are second only to diesel cars in contributing to the harmful emissions.

As bus fleet tends to be older within the county this can result in higher NOx emissions. We know that the latest Euro 6 engines are much cleaner, reducing emissions by 95% compared to Euro 5 engines. 

Currently only NOx is monitored in Bromsgrove, but it is considered that improvements to NOx levels will likely result in linked improvements in traffic related Particulate Matter which are considered more harmful to health

We want to explore the feasibility and costs of delivering cleaner vehicles across the county to reduce emissions and provide a better experience for passengers travelling on the Worcestershire network.

We are also committed to exploring how Zero Emission vehicles can be delivered as part of alternative service provision such as DRT.

We have successfully delivered a feasibility study around the use of camera technology in conjunction with pollution sensor technology to monitor individual vehicles that allows for significant improvements.

We are committed through its BSIP and ZEBRA fund application to supporting the government’s commitment to decarbonisation and to reduce the transport sector’s contribution to CO2 emissions.

Subject to funding we also wish to explore how buses can become Euro VI compliant within the first phase of the BSIP (by the end of and want to set ambitious targets for improving the quality of vehicles within the County.

BSIP Targets

  • main targets will be in line with ZEBRA fund monitoring areas
  • ZEB 1 – increase number of Ultra Low (Euro VI compliant) Vehicles
    • initial Target 50 per year
  • ZEB 2 – increase number of Zero Emission Buses (ZEB)
  • ZEB 3 – all vehicles in Worcestershire Ultra Low by 2025

Deliver next generation accessible information on and off-bus (TEA)

As part of its BSIP Worcestershire is committed to delivering next generation information.  Worcestershire has been working with software and hardware suppliers to work on methods to deliver both on-bus and off-bus information about its network. 

This includes the use of modern displays that can show next stop information as well additional information such as diversions, information about key trip attractors, onward travel information as well as be branded to the service or route.

As well as on-bus next stop announcement we are also committed to improving the on-board experience for passengers and will consider other on-board technology such as wi-fi and USB charging.  

QR codes have seen a resurgence of usage throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Through implementations such as the NHS Track and Trace app, members of the public have become familiar with the codes and recognise them as a source of information.

Low-cost to produce and incredibly rapid to distribute, QR codes allow Worcestershire County Council to provide transport information anywhere and everywhere. Leveraging a users’ personal device, the solution can be deployed to any location using stick-on QR codes. 

We currently operate two schemes: 

  • standard QR codes 
    • provides a visual web departure board, with upcoming departures for any bus stop
  • Tap & Talk
    • provides the same functionality, but audibly, to assist passengers with limited visibility

This is not the only accessible technology that we are using to ensure that accessibility is at the heart of our solutions. We will soon take delivery of the UK’s first Digital Transport Assistant. 

To be installed within our showpiece Mobility Hub Super Shelter, the voice-activated assistive technology will operate in a similar manner to “Alexa-style” technologies, allowing public transport users to ask questions of the unit to receive their transport information.

In both cases, by leveraging methods of technology interaction that users are familiar with, we will be breaking down the barriers some people have when accessing information and, most importantly, we are ensuring that the information will be available to all.

A recent study by Transport Focus (The Route Ahead: Getting Passengers Back on Buses, June 2021) found that the bus stop was one of the most likely places people would go to for information on bus services, second only to operator apps.

By utilising the bus stop as a hub of information to the travelling public, we have the added benefit of being able to promote all services, not just the services of the operator with the largest marketing budget/biggest presence in the area.

Enhancement of the accessibility of information should not stop at the bus stop, however.  It is Worcestershire County Council’s goal to ensure that all buses that operate in the area feature next Stop Announcement Audio Visual Systems. The systems are crucial to public transport users with limited vision. 

According to the Guide Dogs for the Blind publication, “Campaigning on Talking Buses”, 6 out of 10 disabled persons feel they would benefit from Audio Visual (AV) systems being installed on buses. 

With up to 32% of limited vision individuals citing that they have previously missed their bus due to not knowing their location or progression along the route, this lack of information is an unacceptable barrier for a demographic that relies on public transport for mobility.

Furthermore, 97% of able-bodied persons with good vision are cited in the same campaign document as finding the systems beneficial for navigation and understanding public transport.

In the future, these displays could not only be used to inform of the next stop, but by working with our technology partners, could enhance the provision of information delivered by providing updates on connecting services at interchanges and transport hubs, or any network-related disruption messaging.

As we also look to increase the level of infrastructure that is being rolled out, we will also improve the accessibility of bus services.

By augmenting RTI displays with accessibility tools such as React key fobs, push-button announcements and audio enabled QR codes, we will enable all passengers to get the information they need to choose public transport.

BSIP Targets

  • TEA1 - increase number of vehicles with next-stop announcements
  • TEA2 - increase number of stops with ability to provide audio announcements
  • TEA3 - increase number of QR codes scanned (by location)
  • TEA4 - increase number of Digital Assistants deployed (Initial Target 5 per year)
  • improve public perception of Infrastructure and overall bus Travel (CS)

Improve and develop mechanisms for improving data that can be presented in relation to the network (TED)

We are focused on delivering an Enhanced Partnership that will deliver value back to the residents and visitors. One of the key aspects of the partnership will be communication.

The information a that we communicate with each other and the information that we can communicate with the passenger.

We are looking at ways to enhance the information available to waiting passengers and on the buses. Utilising the SIRI extension currently provided through Ticketer Electronic Ticket Machines (that all our operators utilise), we will be displaying occupancy levels of upcoming departures at stop. 

We do however recognise the limitations of the data gathered for these occupancy levels. They are reliant on the bus driver being able to accurately judge how many persons are boarding and alighting the vehicle.

Whilst this was demonstrably easier during the height of the pandemic and bus services were sparsely used, as patronage increases, we are seeking ways to improve the quality of data collected using over-door sensors.

Subject to funding, Worcestershire County Council will seek to install passenger counting technology on services with Worcestershire.  This will deliver three key benefits:

  1. it will enable us to communicate bus occupancy to persons waiting at bus stop, through our RTI display estate.
  2. it will enable us to better monitor and report on changes in occupancy for the bus services and measure the improvements that we have made under the BSIP.
  3. allow better methods of providing disruption and information related to the condition of the highway

To enable the authority to use this data for reporting, it must be reliable. Whilst some of the rapidly deployable methods utilised throughout the Coronavirus pandemic were certainly useful to gain an impression of occupancy. 

The reality of asking a bus driver to monitor this whilst they should be focusing on driving and the safety of their passengers is not viable in a bus network once patronage increases to pre-COVID levels.

To this end, should Worcestershire be successful in our funding application, we would seek to install technology that would gather occupancy information in an automated and passive fashion, requiring no intervention from the bus operator and driver. 

Having engaged with the market (through reviewing available content, such as TfL study results and supplier investigations), we have determined that the most reliable method currently available is over door sensors, with technology having improved further since the TfL’s findings seen on the image to the right.

Over door sensors will count passengers as they board and alight buses and will allow Worcestershire County Council to profile where network demand is currently at its greatest and where provision could perhaps withstand a reduced frequency.

As part of the installation, we are able also to install Displays into the driver’s cab, allowing the bus driver to be aware of their current occupancy levels, benefitting the operator. This display can then act as a channel of communication between the operators and the authority. 

Drivers are likely to be the first to notice disruption on or problems with the transport network within Worcestershire and the presence of a low-cost, interactive display can enable the authority to provide the driver with apps to report key information. 

This includes damage to a bus stop/infrastructure, road damage (such as potholes) that could potentially cause disruption across a key transport corridor. 

This will allow the authority to become more proactive in ensuring that infrastructure remains in a condition where it attracts users to select public transport.

BSIP Targets

  • TED1 - increase number of Passenger Counter installed on vehicles
    • 20 per year initial Target
  • TED2 - increase number of Pollution sensors deployed 
    • 15 sites per year initial Target
  • TED3 - increase number of corridor analytical cameras deployed
    • 40 Sites per year initial Target
  • improve public perception of Worcestershire network (CS)
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