TfL’s London Underground wifi pilot
Transport for London is always striving to improve customer service and push forward with the adoption of new technologies, which on an underground network over 150 years old is no mean feat….
TfL’s smartcard system, Oyster, is one of the most success smartcard ticketing systems in the world, with over 19 million smartcard journey’s taken each work day. In recent times we’ve seen the introduction of contactless payment making the need for a physical ticket redundant whilst significant reducing queuing.
As you can image, through all the passenger interactions across the London Underground network, 1.37 billion passenger journeys, TfL has a fortune of data to help guide improvements and direct passenger insight. Understanding passengers travel behaviours, not only on the normal, uninterrupted computes but also when faced with travel disruptions, is invaluable in TFL’s development.
Free wifi across London Underground, in partnership with Virgin Mobile, now has connectivity across 97% of stations. This step change acknowledges the changes in behaviour, demands and the reliance we all have on our smartphones and mobile devices. Our appetite for instant information and connectivity continues to grow, with an expectation for access wherever we are, including 58 meters underground.
TFL undertook a 4 week data collection pilot across Nov- Dec ’16 Announcements throughout the selected 54 station were ever present, with an option to opt out, if preferred. All data was collected anonymously and protected so encrypted couldn’t be decoded.
TfL identified 4 key areas to prioritise*
- Customer information: could WiFi connection data provide better customer information for journey planning and avoiding congestion?
- Operations and safety information: could understanding customer movements in stations help us deploy our people to best meet customer needs, and manage disruptions and events more effectively?
- Transport planning: by better understanding how our customers use the Tube network, could we plan timetables, and our station designs and upgrades, more efficiently?
- Prioritising investment: by measuring customer footfall and movements through and around stations, could we assess the effectiveness
Over the data collecting period, TFL secured more than 500 million anonymous connection requests from 5.6 million devises, with King’s Cross St. Pancras generating 37.6 million
There was naturally a wealth of information collected, but key takeouts are
- Passengers know underground network better than maybe we give them credit for. This was demonstrated at an interchange station, where passengers moving from 1 line to other, walked a quick/back route, with the majority not following the signposted route.
- The balance between the quickest route and the more comfortable, less congested route is a key travel consideration
- An example of the busiest times in trains, carrying 1100+ passengers reduced to 700+ is just a 10 minute window either side of 8.20am
- When faced with a line being disrupted passengers take a selection of alternative routes, not always the most direct.
- The report also demonstrates the complexities of targeting specific journeys and passenger interaction with the network. In one example, it reports 18 different routes between Kings Cross St Pancras and Waterloo, whilst highlighting the share of mobile devices connecting to the wifi service on each route
- The data collected will also help optimise TfL’s retail offering across the network, identifying the best locations for both retailers and passengers
All this data will assist TfL to improve customer service and in turn staff deployment across the network. As this pilot was such a success TfL are planning a full roll out.
The full report is really worth a read & can be found http://content.tfl.gov.uk/review-tfl-wifi-pilot.pdf
*Source; TfL Review of the TfL WiFi pilot Sept ‘17