Real-time passenger information: an expert discussion

On 10 June 2020, LIT Transit hosted a webinar on how to get more passengers on board with real-time information. Urša Hribernik, Head of Mobility at LIT Transit, facilitated a discussion with three senior industry experts who shared their experience and views on real-time passenger information:

Bringing diverse perspectives from the world’s fastest growing economy India, cutting-edge Singapore and dynamic Prague, our guests discussed the real-time information opportunity.

The shift in emphasis from vehicle centric to people centric thinking, the drivers behind real-time information including the big strategic goal of private to public modal shift, and the fact that data accuracy underpins frictionless, seamless transport experience were just a few of the topics discussed.

We explore some of the key themes here. Hear the full discussion to discover new ideas and opportunities around real-time passenger information – now available to watch here.


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From vehicle centric to people centric thinking

There has been a global shift in thinking over the last decade, from vehicle to people centricity. Designing mobility around the passenger is critical to providing efficient, attractive and sustainable services.

According to Vivek: “The thinking around mobility design in our cities should be about people rather than vehicles. As always, mobility will remain to be the driving engine for economic development and sustainability of cities. It is what links people to social and economic opportunities – everything we design must address these needs.”

We need to drive people towards public transit and real-time passenger information systems are a major part of this. The future of on-demand source to destination public transport will only succeed if the right information is delivered to the right person, in the right way.

The entire business model of on-demand mobility is founded upon passenger centricity, along with efficient transport and improved quality of life.

Jarrold tells us that: “High capacity pooling with dynamic routing that adapts to different demand patterns cannot work without accurate real-time information. Ride hailing companies have raised the bar for commuters and they are now starting to have the same expectations for public transport”.

The drivers for real-time information

There are three core beneficiaries of real-time information. 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.

“The availability of real-time information also increases ridership. The probability of someone traveling increases when they have easy access to accurate service availability through multiple channels,” comments Vivek.

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. This alone has resulted in major gains in Czech, according to Radek:

“Dispatch controllers know what is happening 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.”

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 and accurate data not only benefit the passenger experience and operations planning but go a long way to achieving sustainability goals and fiscal measures.


Private to public modal shift

The mobility goal for every city is the private to public modal switch – getting more people to travel by public transport – and real-time information is the most important factor.

Vivek says: “The first thing that would come to any user’s mind is the availability and accessibility of service – what, when and how. There is also a requirement to demonstrate reliability and build trust. Real-time information is fundamental to this and in my opinion plays the most the important role [bar service availability] as far as service consumption is concerned”.

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,” adds Vivek.

Building trust is equally important for on-demand services where there is no fixed schedule. The user is waiting on the roadside, if the vehicle does not turn up it would be detrimental to them using the service again.


Data quality underpins the passenger experience

SWAT Mobility has invested considerable effort in achieving the optimal accuracy. This involves two parts: predicting what might happen in the future using historical data from various data sources, together with the real-time situation like a tree falling or a traffic accident.

According to Jarrold: “It is quite hard to get these two things right, but our service depends on it. For on-demand services there is no fixed schedule. Even early is bad for us because we are trying to pull many people together on dynamic routes and if we are early to one stop it is going to be a poor experience for people waiting in the vehicle”.

Accurate predictions are also important in delivering efficient services, inaccurate predictions can lead to bunching which in turn impacts productivity and compliance. In Czech, accurate arrival predictions presents a huge pivot point for mobility –  historically the focus was on the delay.

Radek: “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 properly, which is a huge step forward in the Czech market. In doing so we have drastically improved service quality and the passenger experience, which is in our interest because happy passengers will bring more happy passengers”.

Furthermore, people become less concerned about wait times when accurate ETA predictions are available. They can plan around the arrival times and decide to stay on at the office, pop to the shop or go for a drink. This does not compute in their head as part of the overall journey.


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Frictionless, seamless transport experience through technology

Coming from the world of on-demand mobility, SWAT Mobility has worked with the Land Transport Authority in Singapore and Transport for New South Wales in Australia to tackle first-mile last-mile problems.

According to Jarrold: “We have been looking at filling the gap in areas where ridership was low and therefore costly to provide service levels that meet commuter standards. When doing multimodal planning we need accurate ETA to ensure the handoff and transfer is seamless and pleasing for the user”.

SWAT Mobility is seeing a lot of interest in journey planning for multimodal trips, but the industry is still figuring out how to share the data between different services, especially newer on-demand services that do not operate on fixed schedules. Real-time information is also vital for aligning demand between service providers.

Vivek adds: “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”.

There was agreement that 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.


Multichannel is vital but there is no ‘one size fits all’

Different cities have different socioeconomic fabric and operate at different maturity levels. A solution that could work in Singapore, for example, 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.

According to Vivek: “You need to ensure there are adequate digital 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”.

He tells us that 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 becomes 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.


Final thoughts

Mobility has entered a new era. Ride hailing services such as Uber have reset passenger expectations in terms of putting information and certainty in the hands of the user, and public transit must respond to this. In terms of how to move forward, a multi-channel strategy is required but the model will vary between cities and a people centric approach is needed for accessibility across different segments. Accurate and reliable real-time passenger information, coupled with mobile applications, will be crucial in winning back trust as we return to the new normal after COVID, and initiatives to make cities more resilient and sustainable will emerge as a result.

This was an excellent discussion and we thank our industry experts – Vivek, Jarrold and Radek – for their valuable insight, and our audience for joining the webinar. Hear the full discussion to find out more about the opportunities and the outlook for real-time passenger information – now available to watch here.


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LIT Transit is the foundation of some of the advancements discussed by our panelists. This includes our passenger information system – LIT Inform – which integrates all relevant data feeds and disseminates it across all digital channels during the passenger journey. Our industry leading plug & play journey time prediction engine – LIT Predict – generates the most accurate real-time information to significantly enhance the passenger experience for some of the best transit systems in the world, including Singapore and Hong Kong.

If you would like to know how we could do that same for you, please get in contact.

Posted 21st June 2020 By