City Mobility — decisions based on events data

“Edinburgh City Traffic” from pxfuel.com (CC0 1.0)

A guest posting by Joshua Ryan-Saha, Data-Driven Innovation Lead — Tourism & Festivals, The University of Edinburgh

If you’ve been in Edinburgh during August, you’ve witnessed a city transformed. The population swells, and the party begins. When taken together, the seven main August festivals represent an event close to the size of the Olympic Games. It is an immense effort by everyone involved with running the city to make it work. The Olympics are every four years, where the festivals take place every year.

However, as most of us who live in Edinburgh know, when dealing with this many people, things won’t work as well as we’d like. Our commutes may be that little bit longer. We might have to stand on the train from Glasgow. We might take a stroll in the bus lane to sneak past the crowds. Edinburgh’s festivals are the envy of the world, but for many of Edinburgh’s citizens, life can be just a little more difficult at that time of year.

What can make it work better?

The Edinburgh Futures Institute, Data Thistle (formerly The List), EPCC and Transport for Edinburgh have established a pilot to see if we can bring together event and transport datasets to better understand festival-related traffic and congestion during August. With funding from Transport Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation Programme, this pilot will look at how to design a data ‘product’ that transport providers, city authorities and festivals could collectively explore to help them make decisions when planning next year’s festival season.

  • Should they increase the number of bus services, and if so, when they could do it without contributing to congestion?
  • Can we use events data to anticipate a need for more Just Eat bicycles at Bristo Square?
  • Will more trams on a Friday night help Tattoo patrons get back home?
  • Should this road be closed, or that one and when?

There are complications in data-driven optimisation due to the complexity and variety of data around mobility. Trajectories of individuals in motion, a multimodal transportation network, and the various types, sizes and unknown popularity of event venues all contribute to mobility problems. Data doesn’t hold all of the answers, but we think that shared data, shared insights and shared decisions across the various organisations involved with making the festivals work might make some marginal gains.

Data Thistle’s (formerly The List) data set is a vital element. With the UK’s most comprehensive set of live events data, including every show at every Edinburgh festival, they know where and crucially when people are likely to be coming in and going out of festival shows. Combined with analysis around future predictions of audience size based on a historical review, the data begins to create a picture of demand across the city at any given time in any given location.

This data ingredient can help the city’s transport providers make more intelligent decisions around the supply of additional transport, identify potential bottlenecks and also indicate where the previous oversupply of capacity has taken place. In short, it will help transport companies provide efficiencies across their networks and improve services for the benefit of all locals and tourists. Smart cities can be an elusive goal, but projects of this nature, with data sharing, and accretion of marginal improvements, can contribute to helping Edinburgh along that road.

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The UK’s leading events data company

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Data Thistle

Data Thistle

The UK’s leading events data company