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Public transport planning

I have realised that the problem faced by companies running buses anywhere in the world is not knowing the shape of the total public demand for transport.

It occurred to me that the information already exists but is not currently available. Malta’s size, mobile phone usage and chronic traffic problems should make it relatively easy to get the data in place to study.

Considering most commuters carry a mobile phone, mobile phone companies can map the approximate geographic position of each phone at any time. This data could be made available and analysed, always respecting privacy. That information can then be used to estimate transport demand. It would be possible to work out what a typical commute looks like in terms of numbers of people starting, say, in Mellieħa and travelling to anywhere on the island, any minute of the day.

Armed with this information much more accurate planning of bus services both public and private becomes possible.

There should be no privacy considerations of amassing such data since a 2007 study (https:// link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-540-36728-4_32) showed that (only) “61 per cent of positioning points are accurate to within 1,000 metres in urban areas”. With anonymised commuters and very poor position data, the chance of identifying any individual is zero.

If this data were made public it would get the computing population of Malta interested in analysing it. I might be interested in doing this myself.

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