How technology is transforming the passenger experience in public transport

Public transportation is any essential part of any country’s infrastructure. Buses, trains, and, in some cases trams, are the arteries that keep life flowing into towns, city centres and business parks. Not only that, they provide a service that is comfortable and cost effective, a real and clean alternative to vehicle ownership where passengers can relax as the travel to their destination.

Technology, and our relationship with it, has changed in hugely significant ways over the last decade, let alone the time since the majority of buses and trains were brought into service. Connectivity and a constant flow of information are now a vital part of our way of life. Many aeroplanes have successfully adopted onboard WiFi, with trains and buses eventually following suit, but providing a stable, free internet connection is only a small part of the way that technology has changed the passenger experience when using public transport.

Using the customer journey to develop technology

In order to create and implement the best uses of technology across public transport, operators have had to look at what the customer expects alongside what they want and what will be of most use.

Recently, the big issues have included providing a constant connection, delivering relevant information in real-time, ensuring data security, and innovating new ways to interact with the service (such as being able to buy paperless tickets).

For public transport operators and manufacturers to deliver in terms of digital transformation though, they have had to consider the customer journey holistically, before really focusing on where technology can be used to enhance the experience.

MLR Transport networking

Here’s the key areas of consideration, and the technologies that have been developed:

  • Purchasing – Purchasing from self-serve of staffed kiosks should be quick, easy, and painless. More and more we are also seeing options that the passenger can choose from, such as the ability to pay as you go or buy a monthly pass, creating an account or completing transactions as a guest, and being able to use a browser or app.
  • Personalisation – Passengers should be me met with an easy to use, intuitive process that not only keeps their data private, but also lets them tailor their travel experience and personalise the benefits they can receive.
  • Accounts – linked accounts that can be accessed from any device (web, mobile devices, wearables), much like social media platforms. This allows the passenger pay for their journeys easily, on their own terms, as well as giving the option for account management on the go
  • The Environment – Most passengers will spend an amount of their time at the platform or station waiting for their transport. Time spent in this pre-travel environment is a vital part of the journey, and offers great ways to enhance the experience for the passenger. Advertising billboards have always been a part of this experience, but advances in technology have more recently brought naked eye 3D to the likes of the London Underground. Light fidelity, or LiFi is also being used to great effect as a way to transmit data to devices without using network data or WiFi. This is particularly useful when considering gamification, such as scanning surroundings for information and access to special offers and competitions.
  • Seamless travel – Not all journeys are completed with one bus or train. Changing route, or even mode of transport, is common place. Allowing passengers to do so with minimal effort, with the same account used for every step of the journey, improves the experience immeasurably.
  • Providing support – As with any technical solution, passengers expect any issues to be acknowledged and resolved in good time. No matter how beneficial or intuitive the technology, it will fail if support is not available to answer questions should it go wrong.

Moving in the right direction, and why it matters

It is impossible to overstate the impact of good public transport networks. A well-used public system of buses and trains has been shown to alleviate traffic and congestion, leading to a substantial reduction in a country’s carbon footprint. In fact, the International Association of Public Transport states that doubling the market share of public transport would stop 500 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants being emitted in the year 2025.

There’s also an economic benefit. According to the American Public Transport Association, every dollar invested in public transport can generate roughly four times that in economic returns. These are undoubtedly powerful numbers, and so it’s no surprise that so much thought and innovation is being put towards improving the public transport journey.

As long as we need public transport, we will need it to keep up with current technology. It’s safe to say that it’s on the right path.

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