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How public transport is using digital technology

It is not only buses that are turning electric; transport authorities are making effective use of digital technology, either for ticketing; connecting routes and liaising with other transport mechanisms (mobility-as-a-service type solution); or for advertising other services.

With tickets the idea of the paper bus ticket has effectively disappeared in many cities. In the U.K., for example, many bus companies allow travelers to pay for the ride using a credit card or through an app. Some apps give considerable flexibility; for instance the bus company Arriva allows one person to send an unused bus ticket or credit to a friend.

Connected transit
In terms of connected services, intelligent transport systems (can automatically adjust traffic signal timings within a large urban area based on real time traffic information together with real-time passenger information. Such technology, such as that manufactured by the French company Alstom and in-use in Singapore, can significantly improve the capacity and quality of existing transport services.

Open source travel
Connected with this, and the idea of digitally integrated transport, is the use of open source transport applications. Such technology, which is already used in Manila, helps to visualize public transport accessibility. Visual displays can link together everything from bike share systems to trams. As well as displays at major interfaces, consumers can access and input into transport apps. Data collected from such applications can be used by planning authorities as effective planning tools.

Digitizing mass transport reflects changing consumer expectations; today’s travelers, at least in metropolitan areas, want to shift with speed and ease from trains and buses to other modes of transport like car-sharing services or rental bicycles. As an example, Germany’s Ruhr region uses a cloud-based intermodal transport control system, made by the telephonics company T-Systems, which enables the management of the region’s entire bus, train and tram network.

The approach of the workforce will need to change to accommodate the digital transformation of transport, according to a report by Deloitte. Staff, for instance, will need adopt ‘digital uniforms’, so that they have the information to support customers at hand. This means connected devices with real-time updates.

A bus ready to depart; most now accept electronic payment methods.

A bus ready to depart; most now accept electronic payment methods.

B2B opportunity
In terms of business-to-business opportunities, many transport companies use advertising in waiting areas. Many of these areas now utilize digital display signs. As an example of the popularity of this form of advertising, Jean-François Decaux, who is Co-Chief Executive Officer of the French company JCDecaux, recently announced the 500th digital screen installation on the Transport for London bus shelter network, which stretches across the U.K.’s capital city.

A new kind of transit modeling
Finally, digital technology is helping to build more robust and logical transport systems. London’ newest transport line – The Elizabeth Line (part of the Crossrail project) — was designed by harnessing Building Information Modelling, which is an intelligent 3D model-based digital process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction advice. The modeling was aided by Geographic Information Systems (the digital capture, storage, manipulation, analysis, management, and presentation of spatial and geographic data).

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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