February 13, 2024

RTA Dubai builds passenger trust with increased fleet visibility

Joaquín Pena
Morgan Greene
Photo of Dubai with RTA Dubai and Swiftly logos
February 13, 2024

RTA Dubai builds passenger trust with increased fleet visibility

February 13, 2024

RTA Dubai builds passenger trust with increased fleet visibility

Executive summary

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai, UAE, is responsible for providing seamless and sustainable mobility across the City of Dubai. The Public Transport Agency which owns and operates a fleet of 1400 buses and transports over 170 million riders each year is on a mission to reinforce public trust in transport services. By enhancing the rider experience through fast and reliable real-time information, RTA Dubai aims to elevate ridership. In July 2023, RTA Dubai embarked on a partnership with Swiftly to improve their call center’s ability to quickly share accurate, up-to-date information about current, historical, and predicted vehicle locations. Through this work, they have improved internal efficiency and plan to continue efforts to increase ridership retention and adoption.


Working with Swiftly, RTA Dubai was able to provide instant access to live operational data, including predictive ETAs and trip replays, to over 200 call center representatives who received 3,200 daily calls regarding real-time bus information.

  • 24%  improvement in the accuracy of ETAs
  • 60%  reduction in the average response time to passenger calls
  • 4.5x  increase in the number of ETAs generated
  • 21%  increase in the frequency of data updates

Transformation in Customer Service: A Partnership with Swiftly

Before collaborating with Swiftly, the RTA Dubai Call Center, catering to 3,200 daily inquiries, used a series of coordination efforts between multiple teams to provide real-time vehicle location data and precise, frequently updated ETAs. This led to overreliance on manual coordination and protracted call durations, often exceeding five minutes, which hampered efficiency and eroded passenger trust.

Whenever a passenger would call in with a “Where’s my bus?” question or complaint, they needed to put the passenger on hold while they performed multi-tier internal coordination with the Operations Control Centre (OCC). The call center team relied on limited access points to the bus operations systems and could only access data from the last seven days, limiting the ability to respond to complaints. All of this took a lot of time—the Call Center’s time, the coordination team’s time, and, of course, the passenger’s time.

Beyond access to information, the quality of information was also a challenge because ETAs were only updated every time a bus arrived at a stop; the information didn’t update with new GPS positions that would account for traffic or any issues between stops. This lack of accurate, complete, and accessible information led to a significant time investment per passenger query, undermining trust and efficiency.

Ahmed Montaser, Learning & Development Senior Supervisor, Call Center at RTA, explains, “On every call, we’d be speaking to the customer and then need to put them on hold, explain why we are placing the call on hold, we would then reach the other team, explain the situation to them, understand what’s going on, and then connect back to the customer and explain the situation again to them.” The back and forth added at least two minutes to every passenger conversation and broke passenger trust when they didn’t have the answers. Given the summer heat in Dubai, the extra minutes outside are particularly taxing.

Empowering the Call Center to be independent and efficient

Given these challenges, a key objective for RTA Dubai was to enable Call Center representatives to respond to passenger inquiries independently, thus reducing average response times. This change was designed to boost passenger satisfaction, increase ridership retention and adoption, and improve internal efficiency.

The collaboration with Swiftly marked a significant shift. Swiftly trained more than 200 Call Center representatives on the intuitive, web-based platform using a train-the-trainer approach.

Tanya Barton, Customer Service Department Manager at RTA, shares, “Swiftly is very user-friendly, it’s quite simple for our agents to get the information they need at their fingertips.”

The team picked it up quickly and started using Swiftly’s Live Operations, including predictive ETAs and disruption information, GPS Playback, an intuitive trip replay, and On-Time Performance products. With so many representatives, it was essential to the RTA team to have a tool that was easy to train on and for the team to understand.

“This system is web-based, which means we can access it from any browser, anytime. That includes the staff available in bus stations; they can access it from their phones and assist customers,” says Montaser. “One of our biggest benefits is that the data is stored indefinitely. Now we can investigate even older dates.”

RTA’s view of Swiftly’s Live Operations to understand where vehicles are in real time

With Swiftly, the team can now answer customer calls independently, cutting out minutes of internal coordination.

“We can now stay on the phone with the customer, understand the situation ourselves, and explain it directly to the customer,” Montaser highlights.

Beyond the Call Center, the Depot and Station teams also use Swiftly to make operational decisions and inform passengers at stations without the need to contact the OCC. With Swiftly, the RTA team now has a common data language that enables teams to be aligned and empowered, saving the OCC’s valuable time to focus on proactively managing operations.

This newfound autonomy led to a dramatic 60% reduction in call times, with calls dropping from 5 minutes to 2 minutes on average. With over 3,200 calls per day, the team saves 160 hours daily, enabling better passenger satisfaction and increased team efficiency to answer more calls with better-supporting data.

More accurate and complete information to share with passengers

The collaboration also significantly improved the quality and completeness of information available to the Call Center. With a 24% increase in ETA accuracy and the incorporation of service modifications into the data, Call Center representatives could offer passengers more reliable and comprehensive information. RTA Dubai’s OCC uses a tool to cancel trips and adjust service when required and developed an API to transmit this information in realtime to Swiftly, leveraging the GTFS-rt Trip Updates feed. Since Dubai is rapidly expanding, there is always a lot of construction which creates such changes to service. Without information this can erode passenger trust if they’re waiting at the stop for a bus that will never come. Now, when the Call Center responds to passenger calls, they can be confident that the vehicle is where they say it is, building trust and confidence.

Montaser remarks, “We can now proactively inform customers about delays or alternative routes, boosting their confidence and trust in our services. They can decide if they want to wait for a delay or grab a taxi."

Visibility into canceled service for call center staff

Improving data quality with existing hardware

A pivotal aspect of this partnership, as noted by Raj Kamalanathsharma, Advisory Consultant to the Public Transport CEO, was the utilization of existing bus hardware to gain advanced operational insights.

“What I really like about Swiftly is there are just two things we need to give them—where the bus should have been and where it is—and from that, they give us everything we need.”

Kamalanathsharma continues, “The major benefit is visibility into data, especially frequency and latency, so we can make necessary enhancements. All of the data we need is on one screen, so we can easily understand which trips are missing. Previously, this wasn’t possible without running an audit process. Swiftly gives us a lot of intelligence, it tells us what locations are problematic, what times are problematic, and helps us find solutions. For instance, adjust this run-time, and here’s your improved schedule adherence. Now, we can look at what corridors have congestion in just a few clicks and tell our roads agency to adjust signal timing. We don’t need to go through a long data analysis process anymore.”

Since Swiftly works with over 150 transport agencies worldwide, Kamalanathsharma and his team benefit from Swiftly’s feedback on their data. Swiftly has tools to analyze data accuracy like ETAs and assess against other agencies to detect areas for improvement.

“For us, Swiftly is a third party that can give me unbiased feedback on our feed quality. It helps us benchmark ourselves against other agencies and identify weaknesses.”

Partnering with Swiftly to achieve their goals

By leveraging Swiftly's comprehensive data analytics and real-time operational insights, RTA Dubai has not only streamlined its Call Center operations but also significantly enhanced passenger satisfaction. The results are a dramatic reduction in call times, improved accuracy of ETAs, and increased trust among passengers, all achieved without overhauling the existing hardware infrastructure.

The collaboration empowers passengers to make informed decisions, fostering a culture of trust and dependability that resonates with every passenger journey.

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Joaquín Pena

Joaquín Pena

Morgan Greene

Morgan Greene

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