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The role of public transportation in America has changed dramatically since the first public ferry sailed in Boston in the 17th century. It is now an integral part of life, providing vital transportation from our neighborhoods and suburbs to cities and cultural centers. We provide services that add value.
In short, transit has become more about experiences than destinations, but it’s still a top priority.
To that end, government agencies are beginning to invest in advanced technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive progress and expand mobility services while protecting the planet and creating more sustainable technologies. We support initiatives that strive for the future. Working with technology providers, institutions can evaluate available solutions and validate whether they provide the greatest long-term benefits based on operating costs.
How customer behavior is changing transportation
The recent pandemic has affected transportation in many ways. Some cities have scaled back transport services because for some reason fewer people are leaving their homes to take public transport. In this situation, no passenger means no ride data was collected.
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The lack of traffic data is still a data point, but agencies that don’t require passengers to pay may have some sense of how many people were on board. It may be indirectly collected from counts or real-time service status lookups, but can provide insight into relative system usage.
One of the key changes during this time has been that passengers have become conscious or reluctant to use vending machines and toll collection machines due to health concerns, especially during the pandemic. In these environments, government agencies have noticed that individuals are moving to mobile apps for purchasing and managing transit cards. They found that they were more comfortable using personal devices than public ones.
As passengers return, we’re seeing a noticeable recovery on the mobile side, with more people adopting device-based digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. This trend is not only seen on the move, but also in cafes, bars and shops. Customer expectations are mobile his first experience.
Measuring trends to improve transit
The use of all such devices means that data is everywhere. We are constantly surrounded by innovations that generate overwhelming amounts of data. While people generally welcome these conveniences, they are equally cautious about data collection and personal privacy. gives you more control over your personal data. This is also a problem during transportation. Agencies rely on aggregate passenger data to inform the level of service required.
A transit system would cease to exist if it were not underpinned by data to inform agencies of passenger trends. Changes in routes, modes of transport, and passenger behavior are visualized through aggregated data. It is important to use that historical information to predict what will happen tomorrow or next week.
For example, large sporting events such as the recent New York City Marathon saw thousands of people participate by plane, car, or public transportation. Agencies can look back and evaluate the different modes of transport used. How well the system performed at that event. This allows you to maximize the use of your transportation assets. They will be better prepared for the upcoming event. This is why data is critical to the functioning of modern transportation systems.
Setting an example of equity and inclusion
Some transit data is of great value to government agencies as it reveals what features are generally accepted. It can show where specific features have been adopted and determine where flexibility is needed through ridership patterns.
Data can also help make public transportation more accessible and connect everyone to important community resources and services, such as employment and health care. Accessibility is also very important for sustainability. If we can make transport systems more accessible, we can foster greater inclusiveness and diversity.
Expanding public transport to reach underserved areas also has a positive economic impact. This is effectively done by studying travel patterns and destinations (known as POI data) for people in underserved communities. This provides valuable insight into key economic locations and helps plan more inclusive and accessible public transport. The integration of aggregated mobility data will help enable a more connected community.
It’s all up to the rider’s choice
It is important to note that data privacy is paramount not only for transit passengers, but also for the institutions and technology providers that handle the data. For the most part, the agency is committed to providing a secure and seamless payment process for all transit her users. For example, Cubic’s toll collection system is built with fair use in mind to meet the needs of all transit users, including smartphones and the unbanked.
Perhaps most importantly, passengers can choose to pay for their connections according to their preferences: contactless credit cards, mobile phones with apps, or new smart cards that can be topped up with cash at retailers. This gives you more control over what anonymized data is actually collected and how you pay for your journey.
Where will the transit of the future go?
Data analytics is a growing field in transit. If a passenger knows he will be on bus number 12 at 8am and the road is under construction, you can proactively offer an alternative route to reduce disruption. Of course, this will only happen if we have the data necessary to provide recommendations and are reasonably confident that the information will be useful to our customers.
Some agencies will also start rewarding passenger behavior for off-peak hour rides (such as discounted fares). The more providers can even out peak usage times, the more they can cut costs and provide a better experience for their passengers. Customers may not be aware that these kinds of incentives are already happening, but they are driven by background service consumption data, similar to how Netflix accounts serve recommendations.
In my view, using aggregated data in transit greatly improves the overall product or service. Such data yields actionable results. While the benefits are often small and may not be visible to the end user for some time, it is clear that such features and products can influence user behavior (inverse is also the same).
There is a synergy between traffic data and a stronger, more efficient and sustainable transportation system for our joint future.
Paul Monk is Senior Product Director of Mobile at Cubic Transportation Systems..
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