Simplifying city travel: The power of choice

August 3, 2016 Richard Harris

By Richard Harris

Could you be persuaded to leave your car at home twice a week, in favour of the bus? Or take the metro or tube to work?

Richard Harris
“The promise of integrated ticketing is a huge component of the smart city.” – Richard Harris, solutions director, International Transportation and Government Group

For many of you, the above scenario has all the makings of a nightmare commute. Having to take several  modes of transport is typically associated with longer journey times, inconvenience and increased cost.

The reason is, across most cities, different modes of transport work in isolation rather than with each other. This means that travelling using more than one mode of transport inevitably becomes a piecemeal option.

There is, of course, an additional challenge – would you actually know which car park, bus stop or station platform to use for your joined up journey so that you could travel with confidence?

It doesn’t need to be like that. The prospect of ”multi-modal” transport can create a commuting experience that is flexible, fast and convenient. It’s at the heart of smart city developments which are taking place around the world. And the key to all of it is data.

One ticket to rule them all

From researching* 19 of Europe’s largest cities, we discovered the current state of the commute is less than ideal. Particularly in London and Paris, a quarter  of residents(27 and 26 per cent respectively) travel for longer than an hour to get to work. Yet across the continent, travellers will only use an average of two modes of transport more than once a week. The car remains the number one choice for most people, with 95 per cent of respondents suggesting it is the most convenient option for them.

*”Keeping our cities moving lays out our vision for smart transportation systems and traffic flows that get people where they need to be. It is based upon the results of a survey of 1,900 people who use transportation systems in 19 European cities.

Asking what it would take to increase their use of public transport, our respondents were clear that two factors needed to be met:

  • Improved service — faster and more frequent journeys.
  • Integrated ticketing — a single travel pass and payment system that can be used for all modes of transport.

The promise of integrated ticketing is a huge component of the smart city. Integrated tickets can combine all forms of personal transport . together into seamless trip chains, such as bike or car sharing, trains, buses and metro. Bookings and payments can be managed collectively for all legs of a journey, often via a mobile app that works across several cities.

With integrated ticketing, people will have access to any mode of transport without long-term commitment, or the need to personally own a car or a bike. It extends the sharing economy to every form of transport, increasing availability of transport modes and giving wider choice to the consumer. In short, it makes hopping onto the most convenient, direct travel option a lot easier.

The seamless potential of data

But, as we’ve already established, transport modes are not talking to each other, so how does an integrated ticket become a reality? The key is to provide all the information and support that commuters need, direct to their smartphone or other mobile device. And that comes from data extraction and analysis.

From pay points, to ticket barriers, road sensors and cameras, sources of meaningful data are endless across cities. Cities are getting better at pulling that data into a single place, meaning it can be turned it into useful, timely and digestible information for the consumer.

With these advances, we can remove barriers that prevent us from switching fluidly between transport modes.

Improving transport efficiency, and reducing delays and congestion, is good for everyone. With the power of choice, the entire transport experience becomes more attractive, and our cities become more liveable.

About the Author

Richard Harris

Solutions Director, International Transportation and Government Group

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