The Netherlands´ largest and busiest railway stations have turned to Bluetooth/Wi-Fi sensors for modelling visitor behavior for the purpose of efficient station re-design, optimizing operation and traveler experience and improving revenue.
In the Netherlands, rail passenger transport has grown considerably during the last decades. Parallel to the increase in passenger numbers, train stations have transformed to places where people travel and perform activities, such as working, shopping and holding meetings. The combination means that the space is shared by more and more people. As capacity expansion is extremely expensive due to the dense urban environment in which these stations are situated, the need for valid passenger behavioural data to reduce bottlenecks and improve travelers comfort and safety, is very important.
To measure, understand and improve the complex visitor flows at Amsterdam Centraal, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Utrecht Centraal and Leiden Centraal railway stations, Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen / NS) – the largest train and station operator in the Netherlands – has turned to the data collection solution BlipTrack from Denmark-based BLIP Systems.
Installed and organised by Royal HaskoningDHV, the solution provides NS with accurate passenger route and activity location choice behaviour data, such as:
• Time spent in station before departure and after arrival
• Time spent by non-travelers
• Time spent on escalators, platforms, in retail and other station facilities
• Distribution of passengers on departing and arriving platforms, and transfers to/from platforms
• Entrance / exit usage
The data enables the train stations to add value of existing facilities and/or new investments, optimize operations, and improve the passenger flow. Ensuring an easy passage through the stations significantly increases the traveler experience and is key to unlocking potential gains, such as recurring passengers and increased non-transportation revenue.
“The main advantage of using WiFi/Bluetooth sensors is the low cost of measurements, especially for longer time frame deployments. Bluetooth/WiFi sensors are currently the most suitable technology for measuring slow mode traffic flows in an urban network, especially to derive the distribution of flows and route choice in the network,” says Jeroen van den Heuvel, Senior Researcher at NS Stations.
“We can see where the flow of pedestrians enter and leave the station and measure their numbers, walking routes, length of stay, times of day, and how busy the different locations are,” says Eelco Thiellier, SMART Station program manager at Royal HaskoningDHV.
“The success of transportation hub, such as a train station, is heavily influenced by the ability to handle passenger flow smoothly and efficiently. To understand and improve operations, it is important that the visitor’s journey through the station is seen as one process, rather than as a string of isolated events. The understanding that all individual events influence each other is key to unlocking potential gains,” explains Christian Bugislaus Carstens, Marketing Manager at BLIP Systems.
The solution works by placing sensors at strategic points within the station. The sensors detect mobile devices, such as mobile phones. By re-identifying the devices at multiple sensors, movement patterns, travel times and visitor occupancy can be measured and calculated—from the moment visitors arrive at train station, to boarding the train, and everywhere in between. Importantly, the solution does not send or track any personal information; it simply monitors the number of mobile phone signals in a given area.
With this information, management is provided with specific and accurate statistical information on the use of retail and facilities, enabling the station to optimise each and every area to operate optimally.