As we end this year of 2020 with so many hardships placed on our public transportation industry through the pandemic and the attendant government ordered shutdowns - I thought I would focus on the future and where we should be headed in 2021.
To rebound, cities need to be laser-focused on the best approach to providing service. That starts with making sure our technology is advanced and built for any new challenge that lay ahead. Three of the ways transit agencies are preparing to pull themselves out of the current morass and better prepare for future resurgences of this or some other unexpected pandemic or global catastrophe are improved technology, implementing low touch solutions, and providing better, real time information to passengers.
We were exploring transit agencies’ new role as the “aggregators” of all mobility services (public and private) in a city before the pandemic. Now this approach takes on new relevance. With fewer dollars to spend and travel patterns perhaps inexorably changed, planners need to identify what are the core essential routes that must be continued to provide minimum public mobility. Partnerships with transit contractors, microtransit providers and the taxi/TNC industry to help fill in the gaps may be necessary. There are signs that professional "white collar" workers will not return to their jobs in the city on a daily basis for the foreseeable future, so the peak demand curve for commuter trains and buses may remain flat. So transit agencies should evaluate adding in mid-day, night and weekend service to attract new riders for tourism, nightlife and weekend ballgames etc.. as a new market for these services and assets. Correctly evaluating and serving these new emerging travel patterns will be key for transit agencies to remain relevant and rebound in 2021. This is our new reality. With strong leadership and political support in 2021, agencies can reposition their transit services to meet the new levels and types of demand, and provide more customer-focused, technology-driven mobility, which can attract and retain riders.