Mass transit is an important part of European infrastructure. The United States is quite a bit far behind in these investments, but it could use big data to make the most of what it has now and what it does with its future expansions and transit system upgrades. Here are four ways that big data could enhance public transit experience in the United States. 

Ease Overcrowding During Times of Heavy Ridership 

One way that big data can enhance the transit user’s experience is by recording the number of passengers who use each route daily. The system can pair this information with road and traffic conditions and special events in the area. This information can be used to send additional trains or buses to routes at capacity with their current number of buses or train cars. For example, when Chicago’s Cubs are playing at home at Wrigley Field, the Red Line of the city’s CTA is often overcrowded. With big data, algorithms could trigger additional Red Line trains or longer trains to be sent to the area before and after game times. 

Show Where Buses or Trains Are Stuck 

In places like Tokyo, which has one of the world’s most advanced mass transit systems, operators are penalized for late trains and buses. Big data could help American public transit operators avoid delays by updating routes when there is a traffic problem. The schedules could also be changed to consider a consistent traffic problem that happens at the same location or time every day. This will help public transit operators provide a more reliable service. 

Reduce Bus and Train Breakdowns 

Big data could be used to track maintenance, fleet services, and mileage of individual buses, train engines, and train cars. This allows operators to make repairs and perform tune-ups promptly. Taking cars out of service for maintenance before they break down provides a better experience to public transit customers. This maintenance can be done during periods of time when the big data analysis has a lower demand for services. For example, buses could be tuned up on weekends when commuters aren’t using the public transit system as much. 

Anticipate Service Disruptions 

Many unpredictable as well as predictable events, can lead to public transit service disruptions. For example, holidays usually have lower use of mass transit. Still, people trying to attend a special event, such as an Independence Day fireworks display, may lean on mass transit to get them there and back home. Inclement weather, civil unrest, and a sudden large gathering of people could also disrupt typical service patterns. Big data offers a way for public transit operators to implement solutions as problems arise. This minimizes the impacts on riders and boosts their loyalty.

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