Cities must prepare for a future of smart mobility

There is growing recognition that technology will change the way people travel and the way transport services are provided, as recognised in the recent PTEG publication Simple, integrated, ready for the future – our vision for smart ticketing in the city regions.

Transport authorities and transport operators introducing ITSO smart ticketing should view their projects as part of the journey to a world in which people don't just automatically jump in their car but use their phone, tablet or wearable device to examine a range of options for making their journey. People will want these options presented in a way that shows costs, allows payment or billing and provides the reassurance that they will be able to revise their travel plans during the journey should disruption occur.

Carrying a paper ticket or pass will become a thing of the past as travel entitlement is written to smartcards and mobile phones. "Ticket in the cloud" options will also be made available as technology, confidence, user acceptance, commercial agreements and trust models are developed.

Most travel is local, and with the emergence of combined authorities we are seeing a greater correlation between the local transport area, functioning economic regions and travel patterns.

In the future, citizens will be able to set up an account with their local transport authority and be billed for journeys made – in the same way that customers are billed for mobile phone or energy use. Local transport authorities will collaborate where this makes sense from the viewpoint of travel patterns, economic purpose and realising economies of scale.

An emerging example of this is the way that authorities across the north of England are working with each other, the Department for Transport, Highways England and Network Rail to bring about a much needed transformation of connectivity, with technology making possible easy and seamless travel across the north for a population of over 12 million.

The relationship with citizens, as customers, will reflect the best of current online retailers.
Customers with mobility accounts will have access to a wide range of options, from conventional public transport to car clubs, bicycle hire and taxis, as well as being able to pay car parking charges and pre-book premium spaces.

Mobility accounts will embrace the shared economy, offering options for lift-share, with high-occupancy vehicle lanes providing incentives for more efficient use of road space. Though there is talk of Uber as an example of disruptive technology, economies of scale and priority given to moving high volumes of travellers will mean that rail, tram and buses, providing mass transit on key routes, will continue to be the key to keeping cities moving and economies growing.

Not all travellers are adults or necessarily have bank accounts and smartphones. We must not overlook or abandon such groups. We need to make sure parents can pay for their children's travel online, as they can do now for school meals. Local education authorities and other public bodies will have to be innovative in how they address cost barriers that can limit educational achievement.

The growing use of electric vehicles, which pay no fuel duty, will make road user charging to raise revenue for the cost of externalities, such as highway maintenance and street lighting, more likely. Charging will also help manage congestion, and its associated costs to the economy, through road space rationing. Mobility accounts will simplify calculation and payment of road user charges.

Local transport authorities must start thinking about what it will mean to be a mobility provider, offering account-based travel to their citizens, with incentives to behave in ways that reduce congestion, avoid environmental harm and allow the development of more liveable cities and urban areas.

Cities with the greatest ability to innovate and integrate will be the most successful in embracing this smart travel future. The slow progress to date in smart ticketing outside London shows the challenges faced by local transport authorities and transport operators working in a fragmented environment where progress is often based on a lowest common denominator approach to agreements. UK cities will need to have the powers to exploit evolving technologies to transform travel options for their citizens – with the outcome of cleaner, greener, healthier and more productive cities.

My authority, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, has retained the powerful and widely-recognised Metro brand for its transport activities, with the strapline of Metro: Here to Get You There. To me, this neatly and concisely sums up what transport is for, and that technology will get us there so much better in the future.

Simple, integrated, ready for the future – our vision for smart ticketing in the city regions can be downloaded from the PTEG website

Reference: Transport Times, July-Aug 2015 Issue

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