How people centric thinking underpins future urban mobility

Real-time passenger information quick fire Q&A with Vivek Ogra of PwC

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.


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Here we bring you Vivek Ogra. He is a Partner, Government & Public Sector at PwC, and leads the Smart Mobility Practice in India.


Thanks for joining us Vivek, can you please introduce yourself?

I am a Partner in the Government & Public Sector at PwC and lead the Smart Mobility Practice in India. I have been designing smart mobility systems globally for 23 years, working closely with government institutions and private mobility service providers. We give advice and deliver end to end services and solutions on cooperative transformation in the urban transport sector.


Your experience in this space is extensive, what underpins your thinking when working with clients?

The central idea of our practice is that urban mobility needs people centric thinking. Mobility is the driving engine for economic development and sustainability of cities. It is what links people to social and economic opportunities – we must design smart mobility systems to address these needs.

The big transformations we are seeing globally are user centered. It is the people that make transit systems a reality and they will only sustain if people want to travel on them. We are talking about the long-term shift from private to public modes, and real-time information has a critical role to play in service sustainability and driving that shift towards public transport systems.


Who benefits most from real-time information projects?

There are three core beneficiaries of real-time information.

  1. First and foremost, the users. They benefit from an enhanced travel experience, ideally with a view of their complete journey. Instead of piecing their trip together in parts, they can plan from source to destination in a single viewpoint.
  2. Transport operators benefit from insight and data that enables them to improve efficiency while balancing supply and demand. It helps them to ultimately deliver the right service for the right purpose.
  3. City governments need to reduce pollution indicators by using public transport to remove the volume of vehicles on the road, this also leads to lower investment in the road infrastructure. Real-time systems go a long way to achieving sustainability goals and fiscal measures.

The availability of real-time information increases ridership. The probability of someone traveling increases when they have easy access to accurate service availability through multiple channels. We all benefit from this.


How important is real-time information in future mobility?

It is a fundamental right for people to know when they are going to get to their destination. The first thing that would come to any user’s mind is the availability and accessibility of service – what, when and how. This underpins the user perception of the service.

It is particularly important for cities grappling with the private to public shift and being more sustainable in their approach to urban management. There is a requirement to demonstrate reliability and build trust. Real-time information is fundamental to this and in my opinion plays most the important role [bar service availability] as far as service consumption is concerned.

We work with 35 cities in India. Without a doubt, real-time information has led to more public transport usage – if it was not available people would use a more direct private or informal mode.


Where should a city start and what steps should they follow?

Different cities have different socioeconomic fabric and operate at different maturity levels. A solution that could work with Singapore with a mature mobility backdrop and high mobile penetration may not work as well in some other cities.

Additionally, there are different traveler segments using the public transport system, each with different consumption patterns and needs – a mother with an infant, an elderly person, a businessperson or a young adult. You need to ensure there are adequate information channels created for all kinds of users. You will require multiple channels for distribution so information reaches everyone in a format that they can easily consume.

Mobile is taking the center stage today and then the web as another important channel. There are physical channels such as kiosks in high footfall areas, and displays and audio announcements at stations, stops and on the vehicles, such as low powered e-paper or LED panels, or bigger displays where monetization become a source of revenues. There are proactive services in development where specific passenger information is delivered as a push message to mobile devices depending on the profile of the passenger.


How long does it take for the public to adopt a new passenger information system?

It varies from city to city, but in general it can take 1-3 months for the majority of the population to understand and fully adopt an information channel. You need to ensure that experiential information is delivered in a way people can easily consume and quickly realize the value.

Also, different channels vary from a consumption perspective, for example mobile is taking the center stage right now.


What is the importance of journey time accuracy?

This is a very important area for our clients. Accurate predictions underpin efficient services, whereas inaccurate predictions can lead to bunching which in turn impacts productivity and the user experience.

Data quality underpins trust and people’s confidence in switching to public transport. If you say a vehicle is coming in 2 minutes, it should come in 2 minutes. If you say there is a delay for 3 minutes, then there should be a delay of exactly 3 minutes. If people trust your journey times, they will stick with your transport system – people want to be assured of your service.


What role does passenger information play in mobility as a service?

My take on mass transit to mobility as a service? Unless there is data and institutional integration, mobility as a service will remain on largely on apps rather than a true reality.

The industry is still figuring out how to share data. Service providers need to agree on a common mechanism for sharing data and information. An important fundamental for MaaS is that of coexistence and cocreation by transit service providers – you are feeding passengers to each other and these models will need to evolve over time, and data will be central to this.

COVID-19 will speed up mobility as a service initiatives, bringing the discussion back to resilience. A collaborative approach to transportation systems is needed to ensure a collective response and sustainable frictionless end to end service in the event of emergencies or a crisis. Real-time information availability and consumption becomes the most important activity in this scenario.

A huge thank you to Vivek for giving us a view into his world and for his valuable insight. Hear the full discussion, now available to watch here.


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Posted 7th September 2020 By