Edinburgh International Data Facility

Festival Mobility: decisions with data

If you’ve lived in Edinburgh during August, you’ve witnessed a city transformed. Together, Edinburgh’s August festivals represent an annual event close to the size of the Olympic Games.

It takes a gargantuan effort by everyone involved with running the city and they do a great job. Those of us who live in Edinburgh during Festival time know that, when dealing with so many people, things don’t always work as well as we’d like. Our commutes may be longer. We might have to stand on the train or walk in the bus lane to bypass the crowds. Edinburgh’s festivals are the envy of the world but can make life more difficult for many of it citizens.

How can we make it work better?

The Edinburgh Futures Institute, The List, EPCC, and Transport for Edinburgh have established a pilot to try to bring together event and transport datasets to better understand festival-related traffic and congestion during August. The pilot will look at how we might design a data ‘product’ that transport providers, city authorities and festivals could collectively explore to help them plan for the next year’s festivals. For example should they increase the number of bus services, and if so how could they do it without contributing to congestion? Which roads should be closed and when?

Data-driven optimisation is difficult due to the complexity and variety of mobility data. Trajectories of individuals in motion, a multimodal transportation network, and the various types, sizes and unknown popularity of event venues all contribute to mobility problems. Data doesn’t hold all of the answers, but we think that shared data, shared insights and shared decisions across the varied organisations involved with making the festivals work might help us make some marginal gains.

This is just the start of our pilot project. We can’t be sure that we will come up with useful insights but it’s certainly worth a try. After all, the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme was set up to use data for the benefit of our citizens.

The DDI Programme aims to help the Edinburgh and South East Scotland Region claim the title of ‘Data Capital of Europe’. It will go nicely with our other famous title: the world’s Festival City.

The pilot is funded by Transport Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, and the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation Programme.

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Joshua Ryan-Saha

Data-Driven Innovation Lead – Tourism & Festivals

University of Edinburgh


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