As I listened to presentations by leading transportation organisations from around the world, the majority of transport authorities seem to be driving to a common mission - increasing the market share of public transport in their region. The more progressive cities (like Oslo or Birmingham) are close to, or exceeding 50% share. Newer cites like Dubai are still at less than 10% but aspire to get to 30% over the coming years. Many talk of ‘doubling’ market share by 2025, from where it is today.
Their ambitious targets are based on the consensus that public transport is a good thing - it gets us out of our cars, it helps cities keep moving and is kinder to the environment.
No doubts here - but how to get there? A whole range of schemes are being discussed and explored at the conference, from Bus Rapid Transport to driverless metro, park and ride systems to futuristic electronic ticketing systems.
One common factor is that technology features strongly within many of the schemes discussed. Technology is used to track and locate vehicles, to help customers with journey and timetable information and to give us a range of channels to pay for our tickets. Behind these schemes, technology is critical to functions such as signaling, operations and maintenance.
Other than the ‘alarming’ growth of two-wheel carriages in India, highlighted by Syed Zameer Pasha, Managing Director of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, who used this term during his insightful summary of challenges for transportation schemes in Bangalore, technology seems to be at the heart of all modern transport schemes. But few speakers discuss how the data these technologies generate could be harnessed to gain a greater insight into areas like passenger behavior and fleet management. Some of these insights will go some way to helping public transport become the ‘lifestyle’ service UITP envisions in its current strategy.
In a workshop held by Accenture on the Monday morning of the event a number of transport authorities commented on how important it was to have access to up to date and real time information to share with customers yet many challenges exist in achieving this. At the forefront of their minds seems to be the issue of the shared responsibilities between the transport operator and the authority in piecing together the various sources of data to create a more cohesive picture of passenger and fleet activities.
The authorities that have cracked this challenge through partnership with operators are now looking at the quality and value of information presented to customers. Alerting travellers to transport network issues is not enough - helping customers know what they should do in the case of a problem is better.
Equally, knowing a vehicle is about to run off schedule or fail in service before it happens is going to be far more valuable than collecting information only after the event has occurred. This ‘predictive’ assessment of fleet status is a good example of how analysing data can help to improve the service and operation of public transport.
Analytics techniques can help transport by creating integrated information ‘supply chains’ that can be mined and managed to gain strategic insight. The key to their success lies in overlaying this ‘joined-up’ data with predictive analytics that can optimise decision-making. Generating meaningful insight from data collected within transport should not remain the exclusive domain of the service providers either - opening up this data to the public can create some fascinating results - like the iPhone app that shows the real time availability of Boris Bikes in London - we are at the start of a real transition in the way we see and use our transport services, thanks to the value held within data.
Posted by Accenture’s Mark Elliott, from the UITP Congress in Dubai
Mark Elliot is Global Lead for Fare Management at Accenture