The Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012 – Open, Big and Evolving Data

London 2012 stated aim from the outset was to stage a ‘public transport’ Games. In the city that has the oldest underground network this was always going to be a challenge. As the press were keen to debate with one year to go.

Part of the challenge was to ensure that ticket holders knew where they were going and how long it would take. When I was assigned this project, as part of my Product Manager role at London Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee (LOCOG), I randomly polled a few friends. Most knew that the Olympics Park was being built in Stratford East London but few had ever been. The ODA and the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) decided to create a Games Spectator Journey Planner. Affectionately known as the Sarah Jessica Parker or the SJP. It was created in partnership between, ODA. LOCOG, the Department for Transport (DfT) and official Games technology partner ATOS.

I had the fascinating role of representing LOCOG from a digital perspective. I am told that the SJP and the accompanying travel content on the website were the first in Olympic and Paralympic history, but when you are working flat out on something this important who worries about being the first?

The website was launched with one year before the Opening Ceremony with the corporate look and feel of London 2012.  SJP was updated when we launched the Games Time website with it’s focus on life sport results. LOCOG asked for a mobile version in 2011 and we launched this slightly ahead of the Games Time site in 2012. We worked hard to have a stand alone mobile site that was comprehensive and super easy to use. However it also worked as part of the Award winning Join-in app. A great effort on the part of the integrators.

The service allowed spectators to plot their routes to Olympic and Paralympic venues from anywhere in Great Britain – by rail, coach, bus, river or tube. It is similar to existing journey planners but has specific information for Games ticket holders and allowed the Transport Control Centre unique insights on journey’s planned.

In addition to the underground, walking and cycling routes we had park-and-ride and Blue Badge parking sites.

The ODA did an amazing job of ensuring that we had correct walking and cycling times to and from recommended stations to venues. As well as obtaining the Timetable information one year in advance – previously unheard of in the UK. We also had a lot of fun enabling links to travel booking sites once users had planned and selected the most suitable journey.

Accessibility was a key concern. A considerable amount of time was spent ensuring that the digital sites themselves were accessible. We set up a two day assessment center of users with a wide range of accessible need and watched through two way mirrors at AbilityNet’s office meticulously determining everything we needed to do to ensure every user was catered for. In addition we worked very closely with the rail and underground operators to allow the actual journeys planned reflect and aid with Spectators accessibility requirements.

We also worked toward delivering the travel information sourced to as wide an audience as possible using an Open Data framework. Which was written up by Wired Magazine.

At the time of launch Seb Coe said: ‘Getting spectators to events on time and back home again is going to make a huge difference to how people remember the Games in years to come. Next summer will be incredibly busy, and as much as possible is being done to make London 2012 a public transport Games. This spectator journey planner will be a really useful tool and help people decide on the best ways of traveling next summer.’

During the Olympics over 62 million journeys were made on the Tube – up 35% on normal levels.

The final usage was almost 4 million sessions with 2.75 million unique users. We had hardly any operational issues and generally positive feedback.

During the Olympics most of the traffic to the website came from Uk as you would expect but we also had traffic coming from 211 Countries during the Games period.  20% of journeys went to the Olympic Park but mainly to the stadium. Well it did hold 80K people at Games time.

  • Olympic Park – 170,038
  • Olympic Stadium – 86,940
  • Hockey stadium – 40,258
  • Aquatic Centre – 33,299
  • Basketball arena – 32,994
  • Copper Box – 12,390
  • Waterpolo – 5,216
  • EtonManor – 3,579
  • Velodrome – 3,526
  • BMX – 1,769

One odd fact: the busiest hour of the Olympics was at 21:00 on 30th July (12.7k) and the busiest hour of the Paralympics was exactly one month later at 21:00 on 30th August!

Overall around 0.5 million users accessed the site after the Olympics had finished

In Oct 2012 as part of the wider campaign this project won the National Transport Award for Travel and Marketing.

Update : Since 2012 I have been asked to give my insights to a number a Games across the globe. It often feels that the learnings here best serve future Olympics based in large cities. Tokyo 2020 and LA 2024 (should they win). I would be thrilled to discuss the SJP in more detail contact me or message me.