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TransRetail : Idea for Public Transport

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BusPublic Transport

Summary:  The growing metro cities in India are in dire need of better transportation system. There are lot of proposed solutions which talks about more infrastructure ( Metro , Flyovers ) or talks about priority infrastructure for public transport like BRT ( and others). As I have stressed in my earlier articles as well what we need is more cosumer centric approach while trying to solve/ improve public transport system ( PTS). In this article I will propose a idea on this line based on my study and observation from internet and my professional work. This idea is inspired by the sucess of the retail stores in india, they have become a huge success for higher and middle class for their service. Though the retail success story is due to evolution of retail store to quickly address the needs of the customer at the same time effeciently ( economical and timely). Taking clues from this I am proposing solution TransRetail, which will ensure better service, drastic efficiency improvements and information for future improvements.

Comments,suggestions and improvements are welcome. I have also entered this idea in wagonRsmartidea. I will appreciate your vote for my idea if you like it. 

Details: Let us consider a scenario in the retail store ( like Nilgiri's, Reliance Fresh etc) where a consumer goes and can select items to buy with help of store keeprs, then goes to counter for billing. It is very simple, but to make your shopping convenient and economical, there is lot of other things have heppened. The item bought has been procured and kept in suffecient quantity at the store (for example Weekend have more sales than other days). The availability of different items is kept at right quantity also the seasonal demands are taken care of. Based on previous sales, forecast is generated for the future need and hence items are procured with demand consideration. It is effective use of the shop space by having adequate quantities of the items.

How do they do it? They do it by collecting the consumer data like When, what and where they have purchased and use this data for interpretation of their present, future needs. They also achieve the optimal infrastructure to get the required items to keep the business economical. 

What is unique in this approach? The communication of the Cosumer and Stores which is 2 way ( surprisingly). Definitely stores are sharing relevant information through ads, but consumers are also responding to their needs with their buying pattern. The good store keeper will catch these patterns to make their stores adequate to respond to their cusrrent of future needs. So cosumer signals are respected and responded.  

It is easy to guess the same approach can used to improve the public transport system. But is there 2 way communication happenings ? Or first of all, is there possibility of 2 way communication in PTS? If yes, then how this can make work for PTS? What are the possibility with such communication?

I was trying to think of a simple way of achieving the 2 way comunication and open a door for endless possibilities for better PTS. The proposed solution is names 'TransRetail'. The system proposes to have smart ETM ( Electronic Ticketing Machines) which have SMS capability. 

ETMs are already capturing information 

  1. Time of Sale
  2. To and From bus stop of commuter

ETMs should calculate following information based on above information

  1. Current location ( at which bus Stop). 
  2. Current occupancy and number of disembarkment at the next 2 stops

The above information will be comming from all the PTS buses, sent using SMS to main server. With enough history data it will be possible to statistical analysis to provide following information to the commuter ( through website or mobile phones)

  1. Expected time of Arrival at particular Stop ( accurately by taking care of daily, monthly patterns)
  2. Occupancy Levels at the request stop ( Again with history data and predictive analysis)

The above flow is explained in the following diagram as well. 



This is the basic structure of the idea it is not difficult to guess potential long term usage of the same data for 

  1. Maintain/improve service level on the specific routes
  2. Improving real frequencies ( e.g. avoiding 2  buses of 335E running back to back)
  3. Responsive system to reduce wait time for the commuters
  4. Managing multiple buses at same bus stop. ( Marthahalli signal chaos can be reduced if buses stop at an order which is known to commuter)
  5. Important data baout public and traffic movement
  6. Intelligent bus transport system where Traffic signals give priority to the buses based on their locations.
  7. Improving effectiveness of PTS. e.g. people start late on mondays and start early on fridays. This system will be allow us to recognise such patters and hence respond to such needs. 

Definitely there is lot more possibility of using this system for improvement but there are some risks involved

  1. It involves Govt organizations
  2. It needs infrastruture to collect such information , hence investment

For point 1, the only change in the BMTC working is change of ETMs. Hence BMTC should not be worry too much about change management. Similarly point 2 is about the investment but it is in tune of 2-3 crores which is fraction of the money spent on the flyovers and roads. But the potential savings are huge and ROI ( return on investment) will be less than 2 years. Based on my earlier study on volvo buses strarting from ITPL, it will definitely save 30% with effeciency improvement. Less waiting time will definitely help improving service level of PTS and hence improving adaptation of PTS by more people. I would like to close with an idea where  volvos will give competions to Taxi services ( in terms of time, money and reliability), as TransRetail will increase the reliability of PTS and reduces waiting time to minimal. ( Please note Taxi service requires notice 30 mins, if you give similar time to this new system, PTS will trasport you in same time at much more economical way). 

Request: Comments,suggestions and improvements are welcome. I have also entered this idea in wagonRsmartidea. I will appreciate your vote for my idea if you like it. 


bharatm's picture

GPS systems

178 users have liked.

I am sure some readers may feel GPS system will be good, but what I feel it is redundant and costly and not reliable. Also stoppage at bus stop is fairly accurate way of tracking bus. Also showing current position is not very useful because in this case we are asking commuter to make a guess when his bus will come. Rather TransRetail does all this info calculation with history data by taking consideration of multiple factors like daily ( Monday or Friday) or monthly ( Cold or Hot months) pattern. 

Again it will not hurt to have GPS but  it can be avoided to keep systems cheap.  

Anithasunil's picture

surveying for patterns

171 users have liked.

I wish BMC will come with a card that can be swiped against a ticket vending machine. This would not only spare me from the difficulty of carrying change, but would enable BMTC to research on the travel patterns.

Given that every super market from spencers to total gives membership cards to study the shopping patterns of the customers, I guess BMTC can use similar mechanisms for collecting consumer info.

As discussed earlier, using the ticket vending information as of now would bias the results towards existing routes.. Where as the smart card solution would be able to track the start and end points of ones travel quite accurately.



bharatm's picture

Hi Anitha,

190 users have liked.

I actually connsidered but it did not work in retail world effectively. Each retail store has their own card but usually did not work as expected ( potential of not working in retail).

Smart card approach is kind of keeping onus on commuter and hence expecting millions using consistently will be difficult. Though it is good but I feel infrastructure cost also going up, but in long term I see good usage of this. So definitely as extension of the above idea it is good. ( as next phase or may be for office purposes). 

Anithasunil's picture

Yes. I realise this would not

176 users have liked.

Yes. I realise this would not be an immediate solution. But, maybe something we can look forward to in Future

But generally, there is a cost associated with any survey. And the more detailed you get in the surveys, the costlier it gets. It is this cost that super markets give away as the 5% discount to the customers who have a membership card.. I guess BMTC can do something similar.

Give incentives to people who change buses in the way of combined ticketing, or a small cost advantage to get people to use it!

and of course, the infrastructure cost is there!but given the speed at which small handheld devices are being developed, and given the huge volumes of BMTC, it should be possible to come up with a solution at reasonable cost! comment guidelines

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