Policy

EXCLUSIVE: GOVT “READY TO ANNOUNCE” MINIBUS DATA WINNER

A green minibus stops in the middle of the road as thge bus stop is blocked by an idling van

The government plans to install trackers on all 3,300 green minibuses in the city after Carrie Lam’s 2018 pledge for a “Transport First” approach to public transport

Real-time arrival information for green minibuses could be available as soon as October, according to Transport Department engineers, who say a 90-month contract to run the system is all but ready to be announced and will be officially disclosed in early September.

Transport Department (TD) Assistant Commissioner/Technical Services Michael Law Hing-sung revealed details of the real-time project at a conference earlier this month, claiming all 3,300 green minibuses and 544 routes in the city would soon be equipped with position-tracking equipment and would feed live location data into the data.gov.hk portal as well as the government’s HKeMobility app.

The government says it ran a trial “testing different solutions on the market” in 2019, fitting around 140 minibuses on 35 routes with different technologies, and “assessing their performance, data accuracy and impact on the [green minibuses’] daily operation.”

TD’s Information Unit refused to disclose further details of that trial or the technical requirements of the tender, but TD’s Senior Engineer for Smart Mobility, Joe Hsie Kwun-kuen, says one challenge identified is that individual minibuses often ply different routes. “In addition to the positioning data, we also need the route information, so this is an operational issue,” he says. The first data should be flowing by end of this year, with design and implementation taking place in October and November, says Hsie.

According to government documents, the winner of the 90-month contract will be required to collect, disseminate and store real-time position information, and develop and maintain an “online management platform” that can also help minibus operators streamline their own fleet operations.

The project was announced in Hong Kong’s 2018 Policy Address as Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged to “proactively create capacity through a ‘transport first’ strategy, develop our public transport and enhance its safety and service quality so that the public can travel conveniently.”

Green minibuses become the latest public transport to support the real-time data initiative: last year, bus companies New World First Bus and CityBus, and MTR all pledged to link data to the government portal. Data for four MTR lines launched in July 2019, while live bus data began in December 2019.

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