New technology to help improve tram network planning

Wednesday 15 June 2016



Yarra Trams is trialling the use of beacon technology as a potential tool to help plan future tram services.

The trial aims to use non-identifiable data to understand how many people use specific tram stops or trams, to better understand the usage patterns of the network.

Beacons are widely used in cities across the world to gather information in a vast array of industries including retail, hospitality, tourism, healthcare and social enterprise.

In London, beacons help to provide digital wayfinding for vision impaired passengers, while in The Netherlands they help the public transport operator send passenger information.

Information gathered through the beacon trial could be added to existing public transport data to give a fuller picture of how people use the tram network.

The trial on Route 5 between Malvern and Melbourne University shows an average journey time of 17 minutes and an average journey length of seven stops.

Network planning is critical to ensuring that Melbourne's future tram services meet the needs of a growing city.

Yarra Trams is exploring ways of using new technology to improve services, and beacons are one option that we are trialling.

The data from beacons looks like blobs on a map but the story it tells can lead to more informed decisions about the future of the tram network in Melbourne.

Tens of thousands of organisations in Australia and worldwide use beacons and the trial aims to help provide a better service for passengers.

In Melbourne, the project to widen the Bolte Bridge and Westgate Freeway will see VicRoads and Transurban use Bluetooth technology to track journey times and provide real-time advice to motorists about their travel options.

How beacons work

Beacons transmit signals, not content, which allow another device to determine its proximity to the beacon.

An app installed on a mobile device can be configured to be notified when the device nears a specific beacon, allowing non-identifiable geographic data to be created.

Yarra Trams has included the option for tram passengers to switch off the ability for the tramTRACKER app to 'receive' the beacon's signal.