Fahrbar: Just What We Need For Public Transport Crowding

This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)

Something great is on the way!

TLDR: What is Fahrbar?

Fahrbar is a progressive web app that allows passengers to check and report the occupancy levels of public transport routes.

This project is supported by the German health ministry.

Public transport is here to stay

The long-term significance of public transport for the environment and society has been emphasised for a very long time. So long that optimising the performance of public transport is long overdue.

In 2000, transport fuels have been found to contribute to 13.2% of the overall annual greenhouse gas emissions, of which cars make up about 40% of transport vehicles that emit greenhouse gases compared to trains which make up 4%. Then, a decade ago, it was simply concluded that buses are more energy-efficient than cars in terms of the CO2 emissions per passenger.

Now, fueled by their disdain towards the older generations for messing up the world, the younger generations are calling for climate action, which includes making improved and sustainable public transport infrastructure and policies.

“We suffer from the decisions of the older generations in the Bundestag, they decide completely against our lives.”

Rifka Lambrecht, a German youth council member.

Besides the environmental benefit, public transport will continue to be valuable to several segments of society, particularly those who have no other viable choice but to depend on public transport because they can’t afford to buy a car.

The need for occupancy data in public transport

Several studies revealed the emerging appeal of private car ownership due to the fear of Covid-19 contamination in public transport. However, the option to drive cars is only available to those who have them or can afford them.

Given the difficulty in avoiding crowded public transport vehicles, measures like extending the daily operational time and increasing passenger capacity can be taken. Spreading the commuting throughout the day minimises the crowding.

But these measures might not be enough. That’s why occupancy data is now more important than ever as it can be used to inform passengers about the current number of passengers riding a particular public vehicle.

By referring to the occupancy data collected by people counting systems, passengers can make more informed decisions about the best times for them to use certain routes.

Bringing this to life with Fahrbar!

By leveraging our expertise and resources, we have been building Fahrbar, a progressive web app that allows passengers to check the occupancy levels of public transport routes.

Progressive web apps look like the usual native apps but have the advantage of not requiring a download via the app store since they can be accessed via a web browser. The progressive web app is connected to an application programming interface (API) that can be seamlessly integrated with other apps.

The data for this app can be obtained through the intelligent processing of public transport data. To include older public transport vehicles without people counters, the passengers can record their observations of the occupancy level in the app. The data can then be processed with artificial intelligence (AI) to create warnings for passengers, especially those in high-risk groups.

With Fahrbar, passengers can make data-based commute decisions while public transport operators can decide whether to add operating vehicles.

How to use Fahrbar?

Fahrbar: https://fahrbar.app/departures?coordinates=8.5803399,49.53778

This web app requires that you switch on your device’s location to use it. What you see here is the homepage of the web app, which features the departures at each stop.

To report occupancy, there are two options:

  • As you’ll notice at the bottom right of the homepage, there is a button saying “+ REPORT OCCUPANCY” that you can press.
  • At the top left of the page, there is a three-line drop-down menu that you can press to open a menu and select “Occupancy”.

Once you press either one of those buttons, you’ll see an occupancy reporting form as shown below.

The occupancy reporting form consists of:

  • Departure stop
  • Destination
  • Transport line
  • Occupancy levels (from lowest to highest)
  • Mask compliance (whether anyone was spotted without a mask over the nose and mouth)

As you fill in the departure stop, destination and transport line, the drop-down menu for each will appear, so you don’t have to remember how to spell the location or line you have in mind.

Meanwhile, the selected occupancy levels and mask compliance indicators will be shaded in red.

Once the form has been filled, you can proceed to submit by pressing the red button with the cloud and arrow. You’ll then receive a “Thank you!” pop-up message.

What Fahrbar means to everyone involved

We’re aware of the complexities of the data source jungle, which include concerns about data privacy, ownership, laws, internet connection, people counter issues, resources, data availability and forecasting difficulties.

But the importance of Fahrbar far outweighs the challenges to the extent that we would rather deal with these challenges than not try at all.

By giving our all to Fahrbar, we hope that public transport will no longer be a risky place for infection as everyone will have one less excuse to disregard social distancing rules.

However, the long hours of coding spent on Fahrbar do not stop there. We’re building this with the hope that occupancy data will help public transport in the long run since passengers still place a high value in convenience in their commute experience. Crowding is such a huge inconvenience issue in public transport that passengers would hardly have the space to move.

Meanwhile, passengers who require priority seating like pregnant women, senior citizens and passengers with special needs would stand in the crowded train as all the priority seats have been taken by those who don’t need the seats. Passengers with wheelchairs, strollers and large luggage would also have a hard time in crowded trains due to the lack of space for their items. We believe that Fahrbar can help here in general.

With this need for occupancy data in the long run, let’s just say that Fahrbar represents the Big Data movement in driving public transport forward and far into the future.

If you work in the public transport sector

Let us know if you are interested in improving your transport services using Fahrbar.