What if transit authorities had full visibility on what’s happening on their train cars and platforms every moment? NJ Transit, a recognized innovation pioneer in global transportation, wanted to explore how they could harness AI to enhance their operations and ridership experience for 6,000+ daily weekday commuters.
NJ Transit conducts PoC with 5 AI solutions
NJ Transit learned that AI technology, like Zensors’ solution, can now use existing security cameras to capture real-time station and in-cabin utilization, and occupancy data to enhance the ridership experience and improve operations.
To prove the technology’s feasibility and effectiveness, NJ Transit conducted five simultaneous POCs (Proof of Concepts) giving the vendors the same security cameras, environment, and timeline. The ask was to capture real-time metrics like the number of people standing, people sitting, and overall passenger counts to enhance incident management and situational awareness.
Zensors was deployed across 70+ cameras in Hoboken, Newark, Penn, Secaucus, and Atlantic City stations as well as parking, tunnel, radio tower, and in-cabin video feeds running 130+ real-time utilization metrics such as:
- Occupancy in the waiting room areas
- Estimated wait times at ticket counters
- Detection of bicycles on the platform
- Identification of homeless people sleeping at the station
- Identification of people accessing restricted areas
With the data, NJ Transit can determine where and how much to invest to provide a seamless travel experience to commuters. For example, if the waiting room is too crowded, the team can add more waiting areas.
If most commuters ride a bike, they can invest in infrastructure to increase accessibility like elevators, bike racks, and an easier train onboarding system for bikers. Detecting various safety issues in real-time also enables timely incident management without increasing the number of staffs or sending staff to manually monitor the situation.
Zensors wins HBLR PoC competition
While all other vendors failed to deliver what NJ Transit required, Zensors AI platform proved its unmatched quality. Zensors showcased how easy the platform is to use as well as the precision and power of its AI-driven real-time ridership data.
NJ Transit proved the value of Zensors AI-powered data to
- Ensure cost-effective operations of train
- Minimize ticket evasion
- Limit drivers’ cellphone use
- Get accurate, real-time data on PAX miles travelled
- Enhance comfortable riding experience
Ultimately, the PoC at HBLR Station successfully showcased the capabilities of AI analytics. For its efforts and innovation, NJT and Zensors were honored with the 2022 NJ Alliance for Action Distinguished Engineering Award, marking its pioneering stance in U.S. public transit for adopting this innovative technology.
NJ Transit awards $325,000 to Zensors for a RFP
After implementing the PoC and validating the power of AI analytics, NJ Transit issued a RFP to conduct a more extensive AI project. Upon review of multiple vendor submissions, NJ Transit awarded Zensors $325,000 for an RFP to capture what’s going on in their moving cars on the River Line, in real-time.
Zensors is on track to introduce these capabilities across 40 train cars on the River Line. NJT will be elevating the safety and comfort standards for its riders while controlling their operational expenses with Zensors live data through:
- Reporting available seats/occupancy to internal teams and passengers
- Planning staff schedules more effectively
- Optimizing the train schedule based on actual passenger usage
- Understanding the extent of fare evasion
Sharing real-time crowd data through mobile dashboards, NJT passengers can make informed travel decisions with data similar to the "How Full is My Ride" mobile app feature. The riders can get on less crowded cars or avoid busy times to enjoy more comfort.
The future of AI-powered transit
What does it mean for the wider transit industry in the US? Public transit ridership is yet to fully recover from the pandemic, demonstrated in the figure below. Transit industry needs to win back the commuters who left for other transportation options.
Without data and understanding of where they’re failing to satisfy commuters, strategies and investments to win back the commuters will only be blindly shooting, hoping that something sticks.
Back in June 2022, NJ Transit also faced a less than optimal ridership recovery of 51.7%. Fortunately, NJ Transit, as a pioneering innovator, knows exactly what to do. Witnessing what AI could do first-hand through a successful POCs, NJ Transit is rolling out AI in River Line from August 2023.
With AI’s real-time ridership data, they’ll know exactly where they fall short of riders’ expectation and align their strategies to elevate ridership experience and satisfaction. By following the proven steps to data-driven operations and CX strategy, greater transit industry can become the first choice of commuters once again.
About NJ TRANSIT
NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 253 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 166 rail stations, 62 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.