Embracing technology: The first stop on Dublin Bus’ innovation journey
Robert Lynn, Engineering Manager at Dublin Bus, discusses the significance of innovation and embracing technology to encourage modal shift and enhance the customer experience, as well as the company’s latest partnership with Voi Technology and what it means for the wider public transport sector in Dublin.
Credit: Dublin Bus
From buses to e-bikes, technology shapes most human journeys, whether it’s a trip to see family, going to a game in Croke Park or a daily cross-town commute.
Over many years, we have seen the benefits of embracing technology in our lives. At its purest form, technology makes things easier to use and, by design, better. In the transport industry, this has led to greater accessibility of our buses (access ramps, induction loops, audio announcements, colour contrasting interiors); zero tailpipe emissions on order; traffic light priority for public transport; and real-time journey information for customers.
We live in an era when everything that we think we knew about transport and mobility is changing rapidly. Thus, traditional operators like Dublin Bus must be ready to seize this moment”
We live in an era when everything that we think we knew about transport and mobility is changing rapidly. Thus, traditional operators like Dublin Bus must be ready to seize this moment.
Encouraging modal shift from car to an integrated multimodal system is vital if we are to grasp this opportunity. This means making public transport, especially by bus, a more compelling and attractive alternative for those who currently rely on their cars for journeys to and from work, for school runs, shopping trips and when enjoying sporting, cultural and leisure pursuits.
But, we must also look afresh at our services and examine how we can harness the potential of innovation and technology to encourage modal shift and boost the overall customer experience.
I really believe that merging technology and transport services represents a unique opportunity for Ireland’s public transport system as a whole, and Dublin Bus, in particular.
Employee e-bike scheme
To some, ‘Dublin Bus’ and ‘innovation’ are not words that go together naturally. But, Dublin Bus has always played a vital role in unlocking the innovative capacity of public transport in the capital. Today, we have an ambitious vision to transform the services that we provide for customers and employees.
As part of this work, we have been examining the area of mobility within the transport sector over the last 18 months and exploring markets in the UK and major European cities. During this process, we have spoken to many local authorities, local operators, and IT suppliers to gain insight into emerging trends and operational lessons learned as various services are launched in various locations.
By supporting our employees to adopt this free, active and sustainable transport mode, Dublin Bus is demonstrating its wider commitment to the shift towards sustainable, multimodal transportation”
The launch of our employee e-bike scheme in June 2022 saw us take another step forward on our innovation journey. This is a pilot project running for 12 months, giving Dublin Bus real time insights into micro-mobility use in the capital. The pilot programme includes 20 Voi Technology e-bikes, housed across our eight depots, maintained by the Dublin Bus engineering team.
While it is still early days, we are delighted with the employee response to this project. So far, we have seen:
- A 100 per cent roll-out across all eight depots
- Bike docking shelters installed across all locations, including our Head Office in the centre of Dublin
- Over 500km travelled by nearly 100 employees.
We are thrilled to be joined on this journey by Voi. They are one of Europe’s largest micro-mobility companies, offering e-scooters and e-bikes to help towns, cities and communities to move in a sustainable and shared way. We both believe that cities should be free from congestion, noise and pollution. We both believe in greener cities, underpinned by multimodal transport options, where people can freely move around on their terms.
By supporting our employees to adopt this free, active and sustainable transport mode, Dublin Bus is demonstrating its wider commitment to the shift towards sustainable, multimodal transportation in Dublin, strengthening our position as a leader in the sector and inspiring Dubliners to follow our example and embrace multimodal transport.
A truly sustainable Dublin
We all know that climate change is the defining issue of our time. Dublin Bus recognises that we must play a significant role in helping to improve Ireland’s overall performance in this regard. That’s why we are working to deliver low-cost, frequent and zero-emission bus services which are fully integrated with a suite of flexible transport solutions that make door-to-door journeys for all of our customers easy and enjoyable. This will make a significant contribution towards making Dublin one of Europe’s most sustainable cities, and one of the best both to live in and to visit.
Our goal is a cleaner, greener city, with multiple transport services working together seamlessly. But we know we cannot do this alone.
We’re actively exploring how Dublin Bus can supplement our core bus services with other complementary, sustainable modes of transport, in order to improve our overall customer experience”
The greater the number of clean and efficient transport options available, the healthier and more sustainable the city will be, now and into the future. A range of complementary solutions is possible, including better provision for cyclists and users of e-bikes and e-scooters. We’re actively exploring how Dublin Bus can supplement our core bus services with other complementary, sustainable modes of transport, in order to improve our overall customer experience.
Historically, traditional companies have not been imaginative enough with their assets and the benefits that technology can bring. There is an opportunity for Dublin Bus to further build on its reputation through the early adoption of new technology to create and capture value for customers, the city and state.
The next decade will see Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT), micro-mobility and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) become part of the customer offering. MaaS, which is already active and successful in Helsinki, combines the services offered by all available transport providers into a single app, which allows customers to plan and pay for their personalised end-to-end multimodal journey. Taking account of bus, rail, tram, taxi, cycling and walking, it allows the user to plan the most convenient journey for them and takes away the complexity of multiple payments.
Harnessing this technology and using it to develop new, innovative services is a key part of the company’s vision to become the delivery partner of choice for state and private partners.
Building the future
The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats believed that “the past is dead, not only for us but for this country”, as he laid down a challenge for a young nation to build for the future. Our employee e-bike scheme is an important first step towards building for the future of Dublin Bus and the city. Delivering this scheme inspires us to think big and to think smart as we work to deliver more innovative products and services.
Over the years, Dublin Bus has grown and evolved, and the periods when it has thrived the most are the times when it has embraced change, rather than run from it. For Dublin Bus, innovation is not an end in itself, but a chance to improve. For us, the path forward is to create organisational agility, from top to bottom, to build a culture of continuous innovation. Instead of constantly striving to stay relevant in a fast-changing market, we are aiming to define new standards and experiences for customers.
Our approach to innovation will centre on opportunities to collaborate, recognising the distinct, but related, roles of the public and private sectors”
A culture of innovation allows for experimentation and learns from setbacks, because these are indispensable parts of the process underpinning all invention and discovery. We will seek out partners, like Voi and others, to help us on this journey. Our approach to innovation will centre on opportunities to collaborate, recognising the distinct, but related, roles of the public and private sectors.
These principles will help us to ensure that the enormous potential of public transport innovation benefits our employees, customers and city. Our view is that now is the moment to accelerate progress in these crucial areas. It calls for a dual lens, sustaining short-term operational excellence and service delivery, while imagining the long-term future of transport to serve, shape and define the next chapter in Dublin’s transport story.
Robert Lynn joined the company in 1999 as an apprentice mechanic and has held several supervisory roles within the Engineering Department, most recently as an Engineering Manager responsible for the Dublin Bus Summerhill Depot. Robert is highly experienced with regards to both the Dublin Bus Public Service and Commercial operations.
Robert holds a MSC in Business (Leadership and Management). Robert has recently introduced a companywide employee e-bike scheme, with the hope to gain insight into mobility operations and how Dublin Bus might integrate future mobility solutions into existing services. Most recently, Robert has been seconded to lead a Dublin Bus project group to explore mobility, taking on a role as Innovative Mobility Manager.