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  • Rob Macey

New Realities in Passenger Transport and Commercial Ramifications


What would happen to public transport if it was disrupted in the same way that entertainment media has been? If Netflix, Hulu or Disney Plus applied their approaches to passenger transport, what would that look like? Let’s take a look at some new realities and how things are changing in passenger transport.


The new PPP (Post Pandemic Patronage)


Prior to the pandemic, public transport was generally under capacity pressure caused by patronage growth. Not so currently. Will passengers come back? Yes, but not necessarily in the same “mass transit” numbers experienced pre-COVID.

And why would they? Many CBD workers are working flexibly, many employers recognise that remote working, well, works; and suburban “hubs” as community work spaces are popping up and enlivening these precincts. This will impact the public transport business model for transport authorities and operators, and to reflect a “new normal” of shifting travel patterns.


Sustainability


While public transport is already a sustainable transport option, increased efforts in the sustainability space to make transport infrastructure and services greener will have flow-on effects for commercial arrangements.

As various governments move towards Net Zero, commercial design will have to support such targets. Think procurement of zero emissions bus fleets or procurement which encourages (or mandates) the use of renewable energy where practical, and innovation to find ways if not.


Data and Digital


Data engineering, collection and utilisation has already had enormous impacts to a number of industries. The power of data to optimise transport networks and systems, and to predict and respond to passenger requirements hasn’t been lost on many transport organisations and authorities around the world.

And let’s not forget AI-augmented mobility. It’s not hard to envisage a transport ecosystem enabled by AI to improve traffic flow, integrate public transport timetabling, coordinating on-demand services, and perhaps, one day, autonomous vehicles.


The Rise of On-demand


On-demand transport and mobility services exist in many cities around the world. Great examples of design thinking at work, these products are enhancing transport options and disrupting how we think about singular modes of passenger transport.

Mass transit, or MaaS transit, that is the question.

Mobility as a Service is to passenger transport what streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Stan and Disney Plus have been to consumer media entertainment. MaaS relies on a digital platform that integrates end-to-end trip planning, booking, ticketing, and payment across all transport modes, public or private. A few brief examples are:


Keoride, Australia (NSW and SA)


A collaboration among Keolis Downer, GoGet (fleet provider) and Via (technology provider) offers customers end-to-end mobility services through its app. It currently operates in some areas of Sydney and a similar offering has commenced in Adelaide, in conjunction with SA’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and Via.


Whim, Finland


Helsinki residents have had access to Whim since 2016, where they can plan and pay for all modes of public and private transport within the city. The app allows users to enter a destination, select their preferred mode of travel or combination of modes.


Qixxit, Germany


Supported by rail operator Deutsche Bahn, Qixxit provides public and private transport journey planning and allows for one-stop payments within its app.


Emerging Themes


Transport planners across many jurisdictions see a growing need to make travel more seamless and to respond to the needs driven by demand side. Policy-makers and operators are tapping into private sector expertise and building relations to innovate, exploiting their respective capabilities.


Among the commercial challenges that come to mind are how operating models will integrate on-demand with traditional forms of public transport within contractual structures that are workable for authorities and operators.


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