Tech Industry

Real-time Opal data now lets you track how full your bus is

Because every trip is digitally tracked, Opal card data can now be used to give you live updates on just how roomy your trip to work will be.

Transport for NSW

Thanks to the power of technology, NSW commuters will no longer have to put up with standing in a crowded bus, wedged under a stranger's armpit while mouthbreathers chew their gum in your ear.

That's because the TripView app can now tell you how full your bus is, before it even arrives, allowing you to make the call on whether you want to stand with the great unwashed or wait for a later, roomier bus.

The change comes as part of an update rolled out by Transport for NSW, incorporating live Opal card data into TripView to give commuters real-time information on bus loading.

This kind of commuter-tracking data is already used in places like Singapore to give authorities and passengers a better indication of how the public transport network is faring. But it's a welcome addition in NSW, especially for the roughly 500,000 Sydneysiders who travel by bus everyday.

NSW officially ditched the last of its paper tickets in August this year, and the contactless pre-paid Opal now lets commuters top up their account online, track their spending and their trips. But this kind of tracking has also been cause for concern after it was revealed that NSW Police could track commuters by accessing Opal data without a warrant.

But Transport for NSW says it does not track the movements of passengers in real time across the network, that it abides by privacy laws and that bus occupancy data is collected from Opal readers on buses when customers tap on and off.

Transport for NSW's deputy secretary of customer service, Tony Braxton-Smith, said the new feature was an example of Opal data proving "practical for everyone."

"We want to give customers as much information as we can and this essential update will let people know how busy their bus service is," he said.

"Customers who use TripView will now see icons on services to indicate the volume of people travelling on the service, showing how practical Opal data can be for real-time information."

Bus load tracking has been live on iOS for about a month through the travel app NextThere, but now the feature will be available to iOS and Android users of the popular TripView app.

Other transport apps including Metrarove, Arrivo and TripGo are also expected to get access to the data as part of future updates to their platforms.

Updated on September 7 at 4:00 p.m. AEST: Included further details on privacy from Transport for NSW.