SASMOB shows the impacts of COVID on mobility

Under the SASMOB project, the City of Szeged – a CIVITAS Award-recognised champion of sustainable mobility in Hungary – is working on an intelligent data-driven municipal response system, which will allow to optimise the urban mobility services and provide better information to users and commuters.

To meet the data needs of the City and public transport company SZKT, a team led by Vilmos Bilicki PhD at the Software Development Department of the University of Szeged is working on different methods to count passengers and traffic. Both public transport passengers on trolleybuses and traffic (cars, cyclists and pedestrians) crossing the City Centre Bridge spanning the river Tisza are counted automatically by camera images processed by Artificial Intelligence, and only the numbers are transmitted to keep the data anonymous and communication costs low. What’s more, free Wi-Fi hotspots available at public transport vehicles allow to track a significant share of smartphones – again, by a strictly anonymised ID – and organise trips into flows, i.e. extract origin-destination data and even multimodal trip chains. Combined with the traditional method based on measuring vehicle weight, these new methods provide fairly reliable results.

Figure 1: Traffic on the Inner City Bridge (Szeged) by week, 2020. Source: data by Software Development Department of the University of Szeged, chart by Mobilissimus

Figure 2: Traffic on the Inner City Bridge (Szeged) by week, compared to week 9 (2020). Source: data by Software Development Department of the University of Szeged, chart by Mobilissimus​


The results of the automated traffic counting on the City Centre Bridge since late February show the following results:

  • The pre-COVID traffic levels counted in late February 2020 were about 130 000 cars, 11 000 cyclists and 12 000 pedestrians weekly.
  • With the closure of schools from the 16 March, car traffic started to fall sharply; bicycle and pedestrian traffic also started to decline
  • With the start of lockdown on the 28 March, traffic reached its lowest point: weekly car traffic stood at 55%, bicycle traffic at 79% and pedestrian traffic at 59% of February levels. At the same time, the number of public transport passengers collapsed to about 20% according to SZKT data.
  • Bicycle traffic started to rise again quickly, due to seasonality (spring weather) and as an alternative of public transport. Pedestrian traffic started to grow too, albeit at a slower pace.
  • Car traffic started to grow slowly after the introduction of free parking countrywide on the 06 April and the Easter holiday.
  • The end of the lockdown (04 May) induced a visible growth in all traffic modes.
  • By early July, car traffic returned to its pre-COVID level, while bicycle traffic almost doubled and pedestrian traffic grew by 40% (in line with seasonal trends).

Besides providing continuous data supporting decisions, the counting programme tested in Szeged has another advantage: the low implementation costs, that can make it attractive also for other cities in Europe.

For more information, visit the project website.

Difficulties and advantages of the lockdown – as seen by the employees

The COVID-19 pandemic hit us all, but everyone reacted to it differently. Within the SASMOB project Mobilissimus and the Faculty of Economics at the University of Szeged conducted a research to learn about the employees’ experiences focusing on those...
More »

01 Dec 2020

Current trends and challenges in public transport

Magyar CIVINET, the Hungarian-speaking regional CIVITAS network organised a joint webinar with INTERREG EfficienCE on the 19 November 2020 on „Current trends and challenges in public transport”. In the first part of the half-day event, Hungarian citi...
More »

25 Nov 2020

„The city is full”: SASMOB roundtable in Szeged

Since the political transition in 1989-1990, the transport of Szeged has been characterized by a continuous and significant transformation. Local public transport seems to be gradually declining, the group of bicycle users is broadening and meanwhile...
More »

22 Sep 2020