The transportation industry is deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing a dramatic drop in passenger activity. Helping to ensure the safety of passengers and complying with physical distancing requirements are critical to enabling this sector to resume its operations.

CGI is working with a large Canadian public transportation agency to help plan how it responds, rebounds and reinvents through this crisis. After implementing Microsoft Teams to rapidly transition the agency’s employees to work remotely, the CGI–client partnership looked for opportunities to increase business agility and adopt innovative technologies to solve other unforeseen business challenges.

One of these areas includes planning for how physical distancing restrictions will impact passenger flows as they recover and increase.

Using simulation modelling to safely resume operations

At the start of the pandemic, the agency experienced a 95% decrease in its ridership. To help it resume operations, while ensuring passenger safety, the agency sought answers to these questions:

  • How should we implement physical distancing and manage changing passenger flows?
  • What will be the impact on timetables?
  • What is the maximum capacity we can handle with the minimum amount of staff?
  • How do we plan for the efficient use of our infrastructure?
  • How do we continue to provide a high-quality passenger experience?

CGI recommended using simulation modelling. Through a proof of concept (POC) in a corridor of a large rail station, the CGI team set to work on a data modelling exercise. Using key inputs from a business requirements exercise, the team used crowd simulation software to predict pedestrian flows and behaviours. The resulting 2D and 3D visualization models are helping plan several scenarios, including crowd management measures, train schedules and staff training.

With the success of the POC, the team is expanding the scope of its simulation modelling to include additional areas and a variety of different activities.

An effective way to safely resume day-to-day activities

The POC demonstrates how the power of data and technology are key to planning an effective response to unprecedented challenges. In addition to using modelling to help transportation clients such as rail and aviation, the crowd simulation software and analysis can help sporting and entertainment venues plan events and large institutions manage how they reopen schools and office buildings.

While the length of the pandemic is unknown, one thing is certain: crowd simulation is a viable acceleration strategy to help organizations improve decision making to effectively support the citizens and customers in their care.