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#ITC2018: hear what some of the speakers are looking forward to

Posted: 29 October 2018 | | No comments yet

Ahead of 2018’s Intelligent Transport Conference on 1-2 November, we spoke to a few of the Conference’s chairs, panellists and speakers regarding what they’re most looking forward to about this year’s event.

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In preparation for the Intelligent Transport Conference 2018, we spoke to:

What can delegates expect to learn from your session(s) at this year’s Intelligent Transport Conference?

Hymers: “I will be talking about my thoughts on the future of bus services and the crucial role of leveraging technology in the right way.

“With the overall decline of bus use in recent years, I know that many bus operators are becoming increasingly nervous about market disrupters such as the on-demand private hire trend and many are seeking ways to follow suit. However, if you look at general trends of ‘door-to-door’ journey pooling services across the globe, many of these quickly find the model unsustainable and switch to boarding and alighting points at convenient locations nearby, similar to bus stops!

“My view therefore, is that bus operators need to continue to focus on what they do best, moving large volumes of people from A-B via simple, frequent, reliable, comprehensive and affordable bus networks, After all, it is generally not bus operations that are failing, rather they are being failed by their operating environments. 

“Good honest information is the key to keeping customers onboard (unless you are telling them it is quicker to walk!), and solid datasets are the most powerful tool in lobbying for better operating conditions.”

Perry: “I’m taking part in a debate and a panel discussion. I expect that delegates will hear some contrasting viewpoints, and given my knowledge of my fellow panellists, some spirited debate!”

Lenczner: “In an era where people talk more and more about ‘smart infrastructure’, I will be discussing why we need to remember how to do smarter-planned infrastructure. The proposed HS4Air project is an example of smarter-planned infrastructure that plans infrastructure in a more integrated, joined-up manner that maximises benefits, provides better value to the public and reduces environmental impacts.”

Milne: “I am of course looking forward to chairing a session, but also presenting on rural MaaS. The issue of rural transport has, over the last year, improved, and discussions and workshops on the subject have taken place. As I’m known for doing presentations slightly differently, I will indeed be asking some big questions and challenging the thought process. Having taken on a PhD on the subject there is a lot to share!”

Schweiger: “I will be speaking about Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) from the U.S. perspective, as well as technology investment by public transport for customer benefit. In terms of MaaS, while implementations in the U.S. are very limited, I will be speaking about our lessons learned to date, deployment progress and challenges. In speaking about investing in technology and how to gain customer benefit within a short period of time, my focus will be on the challenges and opportunities that should be recognised by public transport authorities in technology investment. For example, technology funding and implementation in the U.S. is often controlled in part by an authority’s Board of Directors, so a Board must be convinced first to make an investment. The benefit to customers must be recognised as part of the ‘case’ for technology investment, but the composition of the Board may include those who do not ride public transport. So, I will provide a few examples of how customer-focused U.S. authorities have embraced technology and realised customer benefits very soon after deployment.”

Cré: “My session deals with the role of transport in a smart city. I will explore the idea that transport is a key enabler and carrier of ‘smartness’ for several reasons: digitalisation and electrification are happening, the changing service environment, and the fact that the transport sector is a stable force when it comes to public investment.”

What would you say has been the biggest step forward in transport technology in recent years?

Hymers: “Smartphones and applications enable, autonomy could reduce costs, but for me there is only one winner, it is electrification. Air quality is a massive problem not just for London but globally, and I think we should all be banging this drum. I always assumed that the rapid rise of veganism was solely based on animal welfare (and ones Instagram posts), but I recently attended a youth event and I was astounded by the consideration that was given to the environment in this lifestyle choice. Crucially, I noted a huge disinterest in car ownership in favour of more sustainable modes; it is now usership over ownership. Opportunity!”

Perry: “Digitalisation of transport tickets, together with easy access to real-time transport information, is a huge step forward in transport technology and has resulted in the customer being able to travel and stay informed with just one piece of technology: their mobile digital device.”

Long: “In railways, it is the emergence of viable battery and other hybrid technologies which will provide economically and environmentally superior solutions.”

Lenczner: “I would have to say the Citymapper app and other user-friendly smartphone travel apps.”

Milne: “The move towards collaboration and the desire to work in partnership, be that suppliers or communities, is the biggest step in my opinion. This means projects have become more relevant and technology more applicable.”

Schweiger: “One of the biggest steps in transport technology has been using the data generated by the technology to better understand and visualise the details of how people use public transport, how they view public transport (e.g. customer satisfaction) versus other mobility services, how well transit performs (e.g. on-time performance and reliability) and what could be done to improve public transport service. Furthermore, the technology has enabled public transport to be considered as the most important part of a city’s mobility ecosystem – without public transport, the other mobility services would not be effective. Finally, while it is not completely clear yet how technology-enabled public transport will affect travel behaviour in the future (with the availability of many other technology-enabled mobility services), the data generated by the technology will allow us to continually measure the use and performance of, and make necessary improvements to, public transport services going forward.

“One very good example of using the data generated by the technology is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA’s) Performance Dashboard and Data Blog.”

Cré: “The presence of digital technologies. Interesting to see that these are now also capturing active travel modes into the digital environment.”

In your opinion, which public transport organisations do you think are doing the best work to modernise transport?

Hymers: “I think Transport for West Midlands are trailblazing at the moment! I have also been most impressed with Kent County Council’s simple review of how they could modernise their rural bus services through their ‘Big Conversation’ public consultation. Service users and potential service users are always the best source of wisdom and this is too often overlooked by us transport professionals. As a rural Kent resident who would love to be ‘carless’, I look forward to seeing what they do next!”

Perry: “Too many to mention in one list. Obviously my own organisation – MaaS Global – bringing Whim into new markets. But there are lots of others who are bringing forward some real innovations.”

Lenczner: “RATP stands out to me.”

Milne: “As more and more councils, suppliers and communities are working together I don’t think there is one public transport organisation that you can highlight. It also depends what you mean by modernise because what is ‘modern’ on an urban bus service may not be the same in a rural context. I’m always one to play devils advocate!”

Schweiger: “The public transport organisations that are doing the best work to modernise transport are those that not only embrace the use of technology, but recognise that they need to be the backbone of any mobility ecosystem. With the current transport chaos due to new mobility services entrants (e.g. scooter-sharing), public transport’s role needs to be recognised as the pillar of a city’s mobility services. For example, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) joined forces with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) to develop 10 Guiding Principles as a framework for evaluating mobility services and technologies in light of public transport. New and existing mobility services in San Francisco must support, not compete with, public transport.”

Cré: “Polis is a membership organisation, and many of our members are implementing amazing innovations in transport. There are too many to choose from here!”

What challenges do you think the public transport sector will face in the future concerning how transport technology is utilised?

Hymers: “Regulation is the big one for me. Technology is moving at a pace that legislation simply cannot keep up with and I fear this could stifle innovation.”

Perry: “I think one of the biggest challenges will be keeping up with the ever increasing pace of change and the changing needs of our customers. Also we need to make sure that we keep customer experience at the front of our minds. We can have the best transport technology in the world but if we fit our nice new trains with seats that have the comfort factor of an ironing board, customers will find a service that better meets their needs.”

Long: “For railways, the challenge of creating the capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand, and the challenge or opportunity of adopting the full benefits of artificial intelligence as quickly as possible across an integrated network.”

Lenczner: “It will be a challenge to secure on-demand transport options that can provide a public alternative to Uber.”

Milne: “Aside from the obvious of data availability and IPR, it is the availability of communication infrastructure but also customer expectations that will be the challenge.”

Schweiger: “The biggest challenges in utilising public transport technology can be separated into those that will affect operations and those that will affect customers directly. In terms of operational challenges, the proprietary nature of several technologies will continue to hinder the ability of public transport authorities to fully utilise these technologies. For example, there are current technology vendors that do not allow authorities to easily utilise the data that is generated by their technologies. In terms of customer challenges, public transport needs to ensure that its services are fully-accessible to people with reduced mobility and available to all travellers, no matter their demographics. For example, if an account-based automated fare collection system is being deployed, an ‘unbanked’ traveller should have a way to pay their fare.”

Cré: “The big question we have addressed in policy papers on automation and MaaS is when, where and how to step in as a regulator, facilitator, procurer or planner of innovative services and technologies, to make sure that public policy goals are met.”

Looking at the Conference’s programme, who among your fellow speakers are you most interested to hear from and why?

Hymers: “Claire Haigh [CEO of Greener Journeys], I always feel motivated by her words. We need political change, we need better investment in buses and Claire always makes such compelling arguments that are really tough to dispute.”

Perry: “I’m very much looking forward to hearing from my fellow speakers participating in the debate and panel discussion. I really hope that we can provide some thoughtful, insightful and lively debates!”

Milne: “Anyone who has something new to say and provides inspiration!”

Schweiger: “I am very excited to hear from all of the speakers, as each speaker is a transport expert who has an important perspective based on his or her experience. The programme is very strong, covering what the industry considers the most important topics in transport technology. I am honoured to provide my viewpoints alongside these transport professionals.”

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