Personal data in transport: exploring a framework for the future (report)

Wed Jun 13, 2018
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How journey data helps people, organisations and transport systems make better decisions and find new ways to operate

Transport is a universal need: almost everyone travels regularly, be it walking, taking a bus, using a car or going by train.

These journeys often generate data that can reveal things about us – where we work, where our loved ones live, what we like to do. This journey data is personal data.

The role of journey data in transport is changing. It is being collected in real time and used on new scales, creating insights into individual and aggregated mobility. Businesses and public services can use this data to make operational and policy decisions to improve transport services, user experience or infrastructure. Innovative new mobility services are also emerging.

Through our research we found that journey data can be used and shared to benefit people, organisations and our transport systems in three ways:

  • to increase accessibility and personalisation for people
  • to improve operational efficiency and innovation for organisations
  • to tackle systemic transport issues for the benefit of everyone

We also uncovered areas that must be explored to help realise this potential equitably, using data about us ethically, and in ways that support our systems.

For instance, just as open data from public transport and other sources supports new mobility services, these new services now hold journey datasets that can support better decision-making about transport infrastructure and operations. Many companies are thinking about ways to make aggregated and de-identified journey data more open for this purpose, and some of them are testing ways to do so. 

Our research also showed that sharing journey and other transport data more widely requires us to address technical barriers including inconsistent open standards, data silos and poor interoperability of data. Breaking down these barriers will need collaboration and investment across the sector.

Most importantly, we found that journey data is transforming relationships between companies and customers, drastically increasing the importance of trust, and raising critical questions of ethics, equity and engagement which cannot go unanswered. The impact of these trends will only increase as people grow more aware of these issues and as they gain more rights over data about them.