Here are three big public transportation trends for 2020:
1. Zero Emission Buses – This is a big trend as agencies move to transform their fleets away from diesel fuel to ZEB options, either through political pressure or operational considerations.
The largest market share is moving toward electric buses with others adopting Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or even hydrogen fuels. We’ll explore all three options in upcoming chapters of this book and see where they are headed.
2. Autonomous Vehicles – Many transit systems, colleges and cities are dipping their toe into this cool new arena. US DOT has issued new guidelines and funding to help agencies try it. Some are using these small, slow moving shuttle buses for last mile solutions to rail stations, others to boost tourism and still more as campus shuttles. Look for this trend to continue to expand as driver shortages and safety considerations boost interest. There will be lots of discussion about this trend in the chapters of this section.
3. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – This new trend has taken our industry by storm. Basically it involves using a smart phone app to combine trip planning and payment functions for mobility options in a given region. This may include traditional bus and rail options but also include our newer additions to the mobility landscape like TNC’s (Uber/Lyft), E-bikes and E-scooters, traditional taxi, private microtransit and even rental cars and more. The APP can provide trip planning options to make the trip faster or less costly and the customer can pay for them all with one click on the phone. Fare Capping can be added as well.
Three basic models have emerged from this technology that got its big start in Helsinki, Finland:
A. Transit Agency Led APP Development: Cities like Dallas, Portland and Berlin, Germany have moved toward a Mobility Aggregator model and taken these other new mobility options “under their wing” so to speak and included their services as options for passengers.
B. Private Company Led APP Development: Many cities have determined that they don’t want to have to develop the APPs themselves so they have outsourced its development to private companies who “white label” the APP for the agency and handle all the upgrades and behind the scenes payment and mapping.
C. Private Provider Led APP Development: Denver RTD is the leading agency that has allowed Uber to take the lead in their approach to MaaS so that passengers can see transit options pop up on the Uber APP when they plug in their intended destination.
Some folks think that whole approach may be wrong headed. Transport for London’s Head of Technology and Data for Surface Transport, Simon Reed told me that he believes many people today have “app fatigue” and would prefer that transit options appear on existing apps that they use to procure products and services. Under this approach, if a patron went online to a movie theater’s APP to purchase movie tickets, after they selected their theater and show time, transit/mobility times and locations would show up on that APP to give options to get to and from the showing they chose.
Several of our industry leaders address MaaS as a whole and describe where they believe it is going and how it should develop. One question that many are asking now is will these developments lead to the end of smart fareboxes as we know them and will we see a shift to validators on board and cash only boxes or even a move away from cash altogether, as they have done in London. This seems to be the trend although some in the US see our Title VI requirements leaving cash fares as an option. Others like Robbie Makinen at KCATA see a fare free future for their main transit systems, where other subsidies make up the difference in operating budgets and passengers can ride for free.