TECH TRANSFORMING PUBLIC TRANSIT: Opportunities for Africa
In our recent webinar, industry experts presented their experiences implementing public transit technology solutions into the complex and unique infrastructure of Africa. African cities are among the fastest growing in the world. This puts pressure on existing infrastructure, including public transport.
We heard from different perspectives on how technology can help establish and improve public transit in order to make cities more livable and sustainable. We discussed innovations, trends and technology, as well as key lessons learned in the areas of design, implementation, operations and control across a range of mobility systems and models.
Fatima supports the urban mobility agenda in West and Southern Africa and leads urban transport projects focusing on vulnerable groups, non-motorized transport, public transportation and the formalization of informal transport operators.
Fatima presented a study of fare payment systems in Sub-Saharan Africa under the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP). It aims to gain insight into the emerging payment landscape and share knowledge between African countries to inform further digitization within the public transport sector.
Based on six case studies (Cape Town, SA; Kigali, Rwanda; Lagos, Nigeria; Maputo, Mozambique; Nairobi, Kenya and India), Fatima presents observations on key innovations, trends and lessons on 3 perspectives:
Technologies: When analysing fare systems there is a tendency to focus on the technology itself, such as the use of smartcards or the introduction of mobile phone technologies.
Organization and Implementation: However, new ways of doing things involve successfully combining new technologies with organizational, institutional and business process change.
Mainstreaming Paratransit: Initiatives to ‘mainstream’ paratransit represent an important form of organizational and institutional change.
She then presents observations against five questions that study set out to answer:
Are automated fare systems worth it?
What are the most significant technological trends?
Is implementing a new fare system primarily a technological challenge?
Can paratransit be improved by implementing automated fare systems?
What role should government play in the implementation of fare systems?
Nico McLachlan is a leading public transport and paratransit expert instrumental in the paratransit–based BRT systems in Johannesburg and Cape Town. He has also worked on urban mobility improvement projects in Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda.
Nico takes us on a journey from what he regards as “yesterday’s agenda” for public transport in Sub Saharan Africa – introducing the BRT system – to the emerging agenda.
He touches on the successful implementations in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but reflects on the net result a decade down the line. Both systems today only impact about 5% of the overall demand in these two significant cities with a cost recovery of less than 50%.
In the ensuing period, the emerging agenda unfolded. Paratransit operators came back in increasing numbers resulting in a hybrid system. Which is what cities now need to plan for: integrating minibus taxi into the BRT system.
Nico presents a business improvement model implemented in Cape Town center, shifting from a fill and go system to scheduled minibus taxi services. In doing so, reducing the number of vehicles by more than 50% resulting in a 45% reduction in fuel consumption. Also extending coverage from 3 to 5 routes and reducing the average driver work day from 12+ to 7.5 hours.
He then goes on to present other examples of unscheduled to scheduled services, cash to cashless as well as introducing zonal systems and other improvement models. He also explores the emergence and value of transit data in systematic route and schedule planning, and overall public transport reform.
Ahmed is an expert on adopting tech-based operational solutions to resolve productivity and optimization challenges in the transport industry. He is currently accountable for providing a scalable, reliable, premium public transport service for people moving around Cairo.
Ahmed shares Mwasalat Misr’s transformation from an operator to a sustainable mobility platform for Africa through data. He sets the scene of this multimodal mega city and transport hub. With is estimated 25 million daily trips across all modes of transport, it puts Cairo in the top 5 cities in terms of daily trip numbers.
Cairo’s multiple transport modes traditionally fall into 2 categories, the first being low cost (but with low convenience and quality) and the other with pricing that is too high for the average Egyptian. Mwasalat Misr aims to fill the gap by providing a premium scheduled public transport service that is targeted at the middle class majority.
And so Ahmed takes us on a journey since Mwasalat Misr started in 2018, introducing technology led models that were relatively unique to the African context at the time.
He explains how Cairo has benefited from smart city buses, AI powered ETA data, timetables and schedule adherence, onboard fare collection, interoperable e-payment card system, real-time passenger information, google maps integration and virtual bus stops.
Mwasalat Misr has been able to collect data to monitor real-time operations and gain a better understanding of transport demand. This has significantly impacted operations in 3 ways, which Ahmed goes on to explain.
Tomaz works closely with public transit providers around the world to customize technology solutions that enable them to transform their current operations and fare collection strategies.
He talks about the fast urbanization growth across Africa, the challenges faced by its unregulated mobility market and slow adoption of ITS systems in Africa.
Flexible ITS solutions are the backbone of modern publication transportation, particularly in the fields of fleet management, fare collection systems and passenger information – as demonstrated by LIT Transit’s implementations in Egypt, Nigeria and Mauritius.
He then introduces solutions that give transit operators 360 degree operational view and a path to contactless ticketing:
LIT Monitor provides business intelligence capabilities, service performance monitoring and increased service management.
LIT Ticket cost efficient contactless ticketing operations supporting all digital payment methods and with a customizable mobile ticketing application.
All LIT systems are hardware agnostic and integrate with legacy in vehicle equipment to reduce investment. They utilize third party data sources and function with very limited data sets, which is common in Africa. All of the solutions are completely modular, support different business models and are easy to implement with a short learning curve.
It is clear that there is a world of opportunity for the digitization of public transport sector in Africa. Our guests demonstrated how digitization can be a market advantage for bus operators and how scheduled paratransit services can improve operations efficiency. We also heard about the advantages of fare collection systems in Africa and what to consider when implementing it.
SSATP foresees that smartphones are likely to be the most dominant future payment media, and are already being used for fare payment in Africa. With the potential to offer much wider functionality than smart cards, they offer a direct communication channel with the user. Initiatives are underway to introduce back office-centric, account-based systems, but it is still very early days.
Aside from fare collection, ODA also sees that fleet management solutions and passenger information systems will play a significant role in the future of transit modernization across the continent.
There’s no doubt that the next few years, and beyond, are going to be very exciting for the sector in Africa.
LIT provides innovative mobility technology solutions to public transport providers around the world. With more than 110+ transit companies using our systems and 30,000+ connected vehicles supporting 5bn+ passenger trips annually, our technology is behind some of the world’s most respected transportation systems. Benefit from these advanced urban mobility capabilities, and take part in the next generation of transit management.