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Reimagining Public Transportation: Today's Innovations and Experimentation

Happy to have the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) support for our book - The Future of Public Transportation.

Here is an excerpt from APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas' chapter:

There is an abundance of creativity and inventive experimentation underway in public transportation in the U.S. and around the world. The focus is on today’s customer: from subscription travel services and the bundling of public and private modes to passenger amenities and apps that cover the entire passenger experience from planning to payment.

Across the country, innovative thinking and experimentation is making the future of public transportation a reality today. This new kind of transit isn’t just viable; it is the essential connective tissue that will ensure communities are thriving without driving:

- Redesigned bus networks are providing a new foundation for mobility in today’s metro-economies, with more frequent, connecting, and efficient service.

- More rapid bus service – in a variety of forms including BRT – is helping to maintain and even increase ridership by adding station amenities, improving route frequency and capacity, and in some cases providing dedicated lanes for buses to avoid traffic.

- Microtransit, an on-demand service for all that is being embraced by a growing number of public transit systems, offers flexible routes and schedules as an alternative to conventional fixed-route bus service. It is increasing transit’s efficiency and accessibility, particularly in low-density areas, during late night hours, and for special needs customers.

- Public transportation agencies and private sponsors are planning, piloting, and deploying low-speed autonomous vehicles that complement and are integrated with traditional bus and rail services. In 2019, there were more than 60 longer-term pilot projects underway and hundreds of shorter-term demonstrations.

- Major urban centers like New York City and Los Angeles are exploring congestion pricing – charging people a fee to drive in certain areas during rush hours – in ways that would be workable and equitable. Fees would prompt more people to use public transit and the funds could be used to eliminate transit fares, and for new transportation infrastructure.

- “No fare” transit service is an idea that is attracting big interest in some smaller communities. Several transit agencies are experimenting with the concept as a way to combat inequality, reduce carbon emissions, and redefine public transportation as a pure public service, much like police and fire services.

- Both vehicles and stations embody cutting edge technologies. For passenger convenience, there is Wi-Fi, mobile fare payment, bike racks, and real-time signage and trip planning data that tell customers the best travel route and mode. To advance safety, there are onboard cameras and collision avoidance systems.

- Passenger rail systems are improving safety for their workers, customers, and communities. By leveraging advancements in technology and automation, they are providing greater protection for roadway workers and installing state-of-the-art accident avoidance systems, such as Positive Train Control.

- The use of low- or zero-emissions buses and electric-powered trains, as well as predictive maintenance systems and connected/automated features are making it possible for public transit agencies to reduce their carbon footprint and to deliver more benefits to the communities they serve.

- Public transit systems are creating alliances with rideshare, bikeshare and other transportation services that connect customers with transit, alleviate “first-mile / last mile” hurdles, and in some cases, provide affordable mobility where transit is not available.

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