The transition to e-buses allows cities to unlock the potential of data for informed transport planning.
As cities become increasingly connected through cell phones and smart devices, the amount of potential data cities have access to will only continue to explode. With better access to data come new opportunities for cities to improve their transport system, as data can be a powerful tool to inform key transport planning decisions.
Transport-related data – including data on ridership, access, safety, users and more – can be leveraged in two ways. First, it can be used to improve the journey experience of users. Several cities – including Semarang City, Indonesia, and Quito, Ecuador – have used data on transport patterns differentiated by gender to inform measures that make their transport system more socially inclusive1. Changes include providing glass doors at stops to increase safety, installing better lighting, and building accessible ramps. The case for these improvements is clear: a higher quality, more inclusive transit system attracts more transit users. Secondly, data can improve operational efficiency, for example, by allocating buses to routes more efficiently or streamlining internal processes. The benefits of these efficiency gains extend beyond just service improvements, as these gains can also lead to cost-savings for operators.
The transition to e-buses brings with it a demand for new kinds of data, allowing cities to re-think their data strategy in other areas. Good data is needed to plan new dimensions of e-buses such as the charging strategy, charge-point locations, route distance, and route-specific energy usage. Without proper data-based planning there is a risk of undermining operational efficiency, e.g. by requiring a higher number of electric buses to deliver the same service as a diesel bus. Because the transition to e-buses requires a step change in other areas of operation, it offers an ideal opportunity for cities and operators to assess – what data am I currently collecting? How can I use data to gain better insights?
With the level of digitalization of transportation in developing countries still relatively low – the World Bank estimates that 92 percent of the largest low- and middle-income cities do not even have complete transportation maps – cities must develop bespoke solutions based on their available data and technical capabilities. Even without a wide range of available datasets,cities can still gain valuable insights, as shown with UITP’s planning approach for Indian inter-city buses. In addition, trainings and webinars, such as those hosted by TUMI and its partners, are a resource for cities that are looking to procure, plan, and operate their e-buses using data-based insights. As the electrification of bus fleets pushes cities to work better with data, this will ultimately have positive ripple effects on achieving an inclusive, user-friendly, and efficient transport system more broadly.
With an average daily bus ridership of 2.4 million passengers, the electrification of Delhi’s buses would mean a better quality of life for millions of people. Delhi currently has 152 e-buses on the street, with the goal of reaching 50% electrification by 2027. In 2022, the Delhi Transportation Corporation (DTC), in partnership with Optibus, won the Better E-Bus Challenge, an initiative by TUMI and WRI to foster innovative solutions for better e-bus systems. Optibus, a software platform that improves the planning, scheduling, operations, and management of e-buses, will be piloted on Delhi’s fleet of e-buses. As Polash Das, Regional Director of India at Optibus remarks, “E-buses are where the world is headed, but they make scheduling more complicated. Optimized electric vehicle (EV) scheduling helps future-proof operations.”
Link to other key messages
Better data on how women’s travel behavior by bus can lead to a bus system that is more gender inclusive. To learn how else e-buses can contribute to a Just Transition, click here.