Public transport has changed irrevocably in the past two years. Despite lockdowns easing in much of the world, the evidence suggests that hybrid working is here to stay – meaning travel to work is down significantly.

And this transformation goes beyond commuting patterns. Research shows that the way people move around cities is shifting too. We’re seeing a shift from the ‘hub and spoke model’ (travelling into town centres along arteries from the outskirts), to a model that’s more like a spider’s web, with people travelling in and out and side to side.

These changes means that established methods of providing mobility services need to adapt. If transport providers do not keep up with customers’ changing requirements, they can expect to lose market share.

For road, bus & rail businesses, city councils and urban planners, it’s going to be vital to find ways to adapt to these new patterns in public transport usage. And technology can play a valuable role in supporting that adaptation.

7 technologies that will help public transport to adapt

As the public transport sector adjusts to a new era of travel behaviour, there are numerous technologies available today which can help. Here are seven examples of new transport tech solutions:

1. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)

MaaS is a concept that has existed for several years, but which will undoubtedly become more salient in future. Mobility-as-a-Service is essentially about using technology interfaces which support a multimodal journey planning and ticketing system.

In the majority of today’s public transport systems, customers buy tickets for the mode of transport (i.e., bus, rail, tram etc.). However, with a MaaS system, they buy tickets based on their destination – and the technology finds the best route, combining different modes to suggest the most efficient, timely, cost-effective or scenic route (depending on user requirements).

2. Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI systems can also play a big role in the future of public transport. One obvious use case for the technology is smart route planning, whereby the most efficient routes are selected for both passengers and transport providers.

But there are plenty more use cases here – especially around data analysis. AI can scour through your data to identify patterns, such as:

  • Trends in travel routes, times, destinations, distance per trip and so on
  • Learning where and when you have most demand
  • Figuring out where people have accidents in stations or on vehicles, when and why
  • The impact of external factors on customer behaviour (e.g., what impact the weather has on journey type)

The benefit of using AI in transport is that it would simply be too time consuming for human workers to trawl through vast quantities of data about trips – whereas AI can do it much faster.

As AI improves, it could also be trained to do things like monitoring CCTV footage and identifying suspicious behaviour – be that pickpocketing, harassment or public disorder – then alert you to it.

3. Tackling data silos with the cloud

A major challenge for both public and private sector transport operators are data silos. Different departments – such as revenue management, ticketing, customer service, or route planning – collect lots of information, but this is not always accessible to other teams.

But, by using cloud technology to store all this information, it becomes a lot easier to break down silos and share information between departments. That in turn can help better inform decisions.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is one of the most compelling new technologies for the transport industry. IoT sensors can collect vast amounts of information about everything from temperatures on your trains, to road usage levels, to the health of vehicles, or stress levels of drivers. By integrating this data and making it readable, public transport providers can then use this information to improve their services, safety, and staff wellbeing.

Related: What is edge computing?

5. Real time decision making

Public transport providers can today use advanced cloud data management solutions to support real time decision-making. This can help them do things like responding to surges in road usage around sporting events, adapting routes to deal with blockages caused by roadworks, or changing bus routes according to the fluctuations in demand.

6. Better means of communication

Modern technology allows for far better means of communication between headquarters, workers in the field, and customers. IT systems make it easy to set up a range of video call solutions, customer service chat bots, image sharing and much more besides.

Case study: How FITTS helped Arriva streamline its tech set-up

7. Digital twins and simulations

Thanks to advanced cloud computing, it’s now possible to build digital twins of cities, towns and rural regions at a competitive price. Digital twins allowed public sector authorities and transport providers to test different route models to see what impact these changes would have on transport use, traffic, disruption and more.

Start digitising public transport with FITTS

At FITTS, we work with a variety of transport providers to support them on their journey to digitisation. From migrating data to the cloud, to setting up comms and collaboration platforms, or providing expertise to turn your transport visions into reality, we can support you every step of the way.

Contact FITTS today to discuss your project.