City Modelling Lab - Alpha Pandemic Activity Modelling to help our cities reopen safely



As the coronavirus descended on the UK, the initial focus of our city councils and transport agencies has been on coping with managing unprecedented changes to daily life and preparing to support healthcare workers. The next big focus for these decision makers will be planning services to support a managed transition out of the current lock-down. To that end, the modelling work which Arup has developed could help shed light on critical trade-offs between restarting economic activity and managing health risks.

We have developed agent based models (ABMs) to simulate how cities operate - using granular data that reflect collective decisions of individuals (description of agent based models here: [][0]). With this modelling approach, we can help cities to plan for their economic recovery over the next weeks and months. Which transport services are most important to connect key-workers to their work? How will public transport operators maximise access to key work sites and potentially new schedules (e.g. staggered school days) while mitigating crowding? We have explored how ABMs can identify social networks: [][1]. Over the coming months, what might longer-term changes in transport demand mean for fare-based revenue? Traditional transport models are not designed to solve these challenges. They make use of aggregate data, which limits them in simulating these new scenarios and they are slow to build.

We have built agent based models with Transport for London, Melbourne, Transportation Infrastructure Ireland, and the Ministry of Transport in New Zealand (read about case studies here: [][2]). To deliver these models, we built from robust tooling developed in academia. We are confident in the design, feasibility, and application of these models. What we have not tested is how we might incorporate radically different behaviours, for which there is no precedent.

This project would test these models in an unprecedented context.

We propose building an alpha model for one city, over 6 weeks. We will be able to assess the technical viability of agent based models as tools to support decision-makers in this unique time. We will also be able to explore how this modelling approach may fit within the organisational and governance structures of cities/transport authorities. We have been in conversation with Transport for London and Glasgow City Council - as potential partners for this testing - should this application be successful.


Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

OVE ARUP & PARTNERS LIMITED £49,272 £ 49,272


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