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Real-time data from ride-hailing service will help Philippines’ traffic management

A new smart data platform is being introduced in the Philippines, which will use free-of-cost crowd-sourced GPS information from the region’s largest ride-hailing service for better analysis of travel speeds and journey times in Metro Manila and Cebu City.

A three-way partnership between Grab, the World Bank, and the Philippines Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has launched the OpenTraffic initiative, which will help address traffic congestion and road safety challenges by providing traffic management agencies and city planners with access to real-time data to better control vehicle flows on the streets of the country’s two biggest cities. The raw data will come from Grab, which is the leading ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia and operates in 30 cities across six countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Grab and the World Bank have been developing free, open-source tools that translate Grab’s voluminous driver GPS data into traffic statistics, including speeds, flows, and intersection delays. These statistics will power the OpenTraffic big data open source tool, for analyzing traffic speeds and flows, with Grab and the World Bank planning to make the system available to other Southeast Asian city governments in the near future.

Last month, the World Bank and DOTC helped train more than 200 government staff from the agency, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Cebu City Transportation Office, on the use of the OpenTraffic platform. In the near future, traffic statistics derived through OpenTraffic will be fed into another application called DRIVER (Data for Road Incident Visualization, Evaluation and Reporting) for road incident recording and analysis. This application, developed by the World Bank, will help engineering units to prioritize crash-prone areas for interventions and improve emergency response.

Commuters and drivers in Metro Manila can look forward to traffic improvements based on studies that will be conducted during the pilot, including: peak hour analysis along key corridors that can help in designing effective travel demand management policies; travel time reliability that will enable Philippines agencies to quantify urban travel time reliability for use as a benchmark for making improvements; analysis of corridor vulnerability to inclement weather or traffic incidents, so the DOTC can begin designing flexible routing schemes; and identification of road incident blackspots, with OpenTraffic data integrated with the DRIVER platform enabling agencies like DPWH and local engineering departments to identify and prioritize high-incidence areas for interventions and improvement.

“We are proud to collaborate with the DOTC and World Bank on the OpenTraffic program to help address congestion along Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares, making local public transportation systems safe and accessible for commuters,” said Poch Ceballos, head of Grab Taxi in the Philippines. “We share a common objective of using big data to make critical decisions about traffic and infrastructure management. With our network of drivers travelling across Philippine cities every day, there is a rich real-time GPS dataset now readily available to the DOTC.”

Holly Krambeck, the World Bank’s senior transportation specialist, observed, “Through this initiative, the Philippines will leapfrog traditional approaches to road safety, traffic management and planning. The country is among the pioneers in the region, and the Bank is honored to work with the Philippines to lead this initiative.”

April 7, 2016

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