The future of public transport: this time it’s personal

1st July 2018

We know, the words ‘public transport’ and ‘personal’ don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Just take a look at the recent changes in train timetabling that have caused chaos to the lives of passengers. A timetable change, a late running service, or even an early service, can mean the difference between someone making it home for the children’s bath time, or missing it – again. For passengers, public transport certainly doesn’t feel personal.

But customers are now demanding more. The wider landscape is changing. Thanks to digital advancements, share-riding and on-demand services, 72% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations[1]. This preference for convenience and personalisation is evident in the rise of Uber, which powered 4 billion rides in 2017.

At the same time, lifestyle shifts (such as increases in remote working[2]) and at-home options (such as Netflix and Deliveroo[3]) are also changing how we use public transport, reducing the need to travel, for both work and leisure.

This challenging backdrop has contributed to bus and train passenger numbers falling across the UK[4]. Even in London, where numbers had risen steadily for two decades, they have recently dropped[5].

So how can the future of the public transport industry be secured? How can operators protect their businesses tomorrow? We believe the answer lies in making public transport personal, for both operators and passengers. Here’s how we’re going to get there:

Ensuring operations are data-driven and insight-led

Until recently, operators looking for patronage and schedule information had to manually collect information about their fleet, with staff standing by the roadside tracking journeys. Now, (thankfully) there’s an unprecedented amount of real-time data available to operators. And we believe that operations are going to become even more data-driven over the next couple of years. The live views of vehicles, drivers, services and sales, can be used to tailor services and experiences to passengers, and make responsive adjustments to schedules. It’s not only more efficient for operators, it’s better for customers.

Data is also being used to implement radical shifts to the standard bus service, such as demand responsive travel enabling smaller, more personalised services. This trend, originally used to connect remote communities, is becoming more mainstream, giving operators the ability to pick up and drop off customers in a cost-effective manner, where and when they want, not when a timetable dictates.

Providing a modern experience

The influence of digital has already changed the experience of consumers across the board, from shopping to banking. A modern public transport experience isn’t just a nice-to-have, it is essential for the future of our industry. Apps that give passengers visibility of the service and up-to-the-minute information (like our ZipTrip app) are popular with passengers and the number of people using them is soaring every year[6]. This type of digital experience is crucial to individualising public transport to the lives that passengers lead today.

Real-time data isn’t just useful for operators, it can create less stressful, more straightforward journeys for passengers. One of the biggest frustrations for bus passengers is buses running early. With real-time data available to both operators and drivers, actions can be taken quickly to adjust the service, so early running buses can now be a thing of the past.

Enabling flexible payment

Payment has changed dramatically over recent years. Now, consumers want the choice to pay in the way that works for them, from cash to smart cards and m-Tickets. Contactless use has grown significantly – it’s estimated that 63% of Britons use contactless payments and it has overtaken cash for the first time ever in the UK[7]. At Ticketer, we recently celebrated the 2 millionth contactless ticket issued by our client, First.

Contactless will only continue to grow as we move closer to the next phase in payment options – account based ticketing, delivering frictionless payments for passengers, whilst paying the lowest price every time, without any headaches. The introduction of ticket machines to support contactless payments is a big step towards this, but forward-thinking operators are planning for account-based ticketing now.

All of these innovations mean more efficiency for operators – and more people choosing public transport – it’s a win, win. That’s why our ticketing technology is customised to operators, and individualised to the lives people lead, so that we can successfully make public transport personal.

[1] Salesforce
[2] The Conversation
[3] The Independent
[4] Department for Transport
[5] Transport for London
[6] Nielsen
[7] The Independent