Using Tableau, Transurban paves the road for success


Optimized traffic flow on its roads
Slashed time is taken to detect equipment issues

As one of the world’s largest toll road operators, Transurban builds and manages toll roads across the eastern seaboard of Australia, the United States and Canada.

For years, the Australian-owned company has collected valuable data from its roads but not made the best use of it. This changed when Data Intelligence Lead Analyst Michael Spence introduced Tableau in 2016, enabling Transurban to go beyond standard reporting tools into data analytics.

Today, the firm can help deep dive and explore its data assets to do what it was previously unable to –from knowing when it should build new roads to saving costs by closing hidden loopholes.

But now we’ve got tables with tens of billions of rows of data on our platform, which we use for our year-on-year analysis of traffic flow on any section of road. It’s growing, it’s a near-real time table. We didn’t have the ability to visualize and analyze all this information until now.

Optimizing traffic on the roads

What Transurban does as a toll road operator is to work with the governments to determine whether traffic is too congested in certain areas, and make recommendations for new roads to be built to alleviate the problem.

With magnetic sensors built into its roads at every 200-meter mark, in every lane, the company has access to volumes of data on traffic flow. Prior to Tableau, it looked over these numbers on a simple Excel spreadsheet, which could support only a limited number of rows of data.

It was “impossible to do any analysis on Excel beyond half a day”, noted Michael. “But now we’ve got tables with tens of billions of rows of data on our platform, which we use for our year-on-year analysis of traffic flow on any section of road. We couldn't visualize and analyze all this information until now.”

Using those insights, Transurban has also been able to pinpoint and monitor hotspots for accidents, while making subtle changes to those roads to improve safety.

Real-time information has enabled us to respond to equipment performance issues in a much timelier manner. This has also seen a reduction in our revenue leakage as a result of technical failures.

Detecting roadside equipment issues with real-time information

For a toll road operator, the gantry is possibly the most important piece of roadside equipment as it plays a critical role in keeping the roads running efficiently.

To identify equipment that has malfunctioned or are starting to break down, Transurban used to look at monthly performance reports. But the time lag between when the issues were detected and rectified represented a huge opportunity cost in terms of lost revenues.

With Tableau, the team now has access to such information that is updated every hour, allowing it to address equipment problems much faster.

“Our roads operate 24/7, and there’s a significant amount of equipment required to keep the roads operating efficiently. Critical to this is our analytics platform, which ingests huge amounts near real-time data and provides operational dashboards on the status of our equipment across the nation,” Michael said.

“Real-time information has enabled us to respond to equipment performance issues in a much timelier manner. This has also seen a reduction in our revenue leakage as a result of technical failures.”