Real-time passenger information quick fire Q&A with Radek Novotny of About Me
Did you join our recent webinar PUBLIC TRANSIT: Get more passengers on board with real-time information? Not to worry if you missed it, you can watch it on-demand or catch the quick fire Q&A interviews with our panelists in a snappy 10 minute read.
Here we bring you Radek Novotny, CEO of About Me, a bus operator in Prague.
Thanks for joining us Radek, can you please introduce yourself?
About Me started in 2009 as a bus operator to service regular urban lines in Prague. Now operating within the Prague Integrated Transport system (PID), we currently service seven regular routes with a fleet of 40 buses covering 2 million km annually. We are competing to expand our business to other cities. I am also involved in the new strategy compliant with the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, implementing general cost optimization programs.
Prague has a population of 2m with a further 1.5m commuting into the city using 200 buses and the underground. While this is smaller than Singapore or some Indian cities, it is quite big for Europe in terms of scale.
How does real-time information benefit into your operations?
We have worked with LIT to implement real-time information with its accurate ETA prediction engine and Papercast e-paper passenger information displays.
Our dispatch controllers are now completely dependent on real-time information. They know when vehicles are leaving, where they are on route and if they are delayed. They can monitor what is happening in the online portal without needing to phone.
It is very efficient and may sound simplistic relative to where other countries are right now, but this real-time information is a big advantage for us.
Tell us more about how it has improved the passenger experience?
The standard in the Czech market is to focus on the delay and so providing accurate arrival predictions presents a huge pivot point for mobility. This significantly improves the service quality for passengers – for them to have reliable information on when the bus will arrive and how long the journey will take. It changes the perception of services and the emphasis away from the delay, and in doing so creates a more positive experience.
The system also helps with complaint handling. We have historical information that shows us the on-time performance of every service, so we know if a bus was late or running to schedule. This also helps us to continually optimize service planning and improve service quality.
We aim to continue to improve the service and expand to a multi-channel approach in the future.
What are the channels currently available in Prague for passenger information?
The data from our buses is connected to the central data warehouse for the public transport authority. Along with all other means of transport in the city, this is provided to passengers via a mobile app and on the website for desktop users.
Just to note again, that the standard here is to provide the current delay, rather than estimated time of arrival. There is still room to improve the way this is presented and the quality of the information in my opinion.
We also provide real-time arrival information and other travel information at bus stops on energy efficient e-paper displays.
How important is accurate real-time predictions?
We are penalized for both early and late arrivals and so the emphasis is on realistic and optimized planning. Together with LIT, we now have accurate ETA data to do this property, which is a huge step forward in the Czech market.
This has helped us to drastically improve service quality and the passenger experience. This is in our interest because occupancy is another important measure, and happy passengers bring more happy passengers.
Are you planning any on-demand services in Prague?
I am operating services in other Czech cities that are an evolution of the standard intercity bus. In rural areas with low demand, people can request a bus on-demand.
In Prague, we will operate any assignments we are able to get but I am not aware of any in the foreseeable future, there is no plan for this in Prague right now. In other areas, there are minor parts of the system where it does not make sense to operate a scheduled bus service. This is where an on-demand bus services would be a valuable solution.
A huge thank you to Radek for giving us a view into his world and for his valuable insight. Hear the full discussion, now available to watch here.