Project Traffico builds traffic profiles using bus arrival times

A case study on the weekday and weekend profiles of Punggol Road (TPE)

Residents in Punggol should have heard the good news that the new link between Kallang-Paya Lebar (KPE) / Tampines Expressway (TPE) interchange and Punggol Central would be available by end Nov 2018, one year ahead of schedule. With another vital ingress and egress into and out of Punggol Town, the dynamics of Punggol road will surely change.

Here’s a simplified version of how it looks.

New and existing ingress/egress of Punggol Town (©OpenStreetMap)

Typically, you enter or leave Punggol Town via the TPE, which is currently connected to Punggol Way or Punggol Road.

Before the dynamics of Punggol road are forever changed, I think it is a good time to do a recap. It all started with an analysis on bus arrival times and a conclusion that they can be used to infer traffic conditions along bus routes. Using this property, I built Project Traffico and set it up to monitor the top traffic hotspots in Singapore. Every month, congestion stats are tabulated and the most congested road wins the Snail Award. To date, quite unfortunately, roads along Punggol Road (TPE section) have won the award every month since inauguration.

On another front, Traffico is also able to build traffic profiles using bus journey times computed from arrival times. For a start, let us look at the traffic profiles of the two champions. I choose the data from April 2018 for illustrations below because there are no school holidays during that month so the data is less susceptible to “noise”.

Punggol Road — TPE (Exit TPE towards Punggol)

Bus route from bus stop 65191 to 65071

These are the journey times from bus stop 65191 to 65071 for service number 3 across an entire day (630am to 11pm) for the month of April 2018.

Traffic Profile (April 2018)

Notice the significant difference between the weekday and weekend profiles:

  • On weekdays, you can clearly see 2 peaks during the morning and evening peak hours.
  • On weekends, there are no morning peaks but journey times get longer around noon.

Are weekday and weekend profiles always so different across roads in Singapore? Not quite. Consider the road along Lentor Ave (Exit SLE towards Yishun) and its traffic profile.

Bus route from bus stop 55271 to 59011
Traffic Profile (April 2018)

As you can see, the profiles are quite similar, other than the typically longer journey times on weekdays.

Punggol Road — TPE Junction (Towards Sengkang)

Bus route from bus stop 65079 to 65069

This is the profile from the journey times for service number 83 from bus stop 65079 to 65069.

Traffic Profile (April 2018)

Again the weekday and weekend profiles are quite different. One look and you can see that you do not want to be on this stretch of road on weekend afternoons because it is usually congested. This is the main reason why this road has been the champion 8 times.

Are there any actual benefits in looking at these profiles? Well, for a start, you can try to avoid certain roads at certain times of the day. In fact, one of the first stories I covered under Traffico is a traffic profile of Punggol Road. Understanding these profiles also helps us make better decisions. Agencies involved in traffic engineering and maintenance (e.g. optimising traffic light sequences, detecting faulty traffic lights, etc.) could also tap on these profiles as references to the actual conditions on the ground.

Traffico demonstrates a creative use of bus arrival times to infer traffic conditions. On top of providing status on congestions, it is also able to build traffic profile of roads through those arrival times. I believe there is an unexplored potential in using these profiles to complement efforts in the areas of Smart Nation Initiatives, Urban Planning and Preemptive Maintenance.

With the opening of a new road directly into Punggol Central from the KPE/TPE interchange, the traffic profiles of Punggol road will likely change for the better. I look forward to a new Snail Award champion.

Check out the latest story on the traffic profile along Punggol Road after the opening of the new link to Punggol Central: