Mass transit has been the backbone of our nation’s transportation infrastructure for centuries. Now, technology is improving it.
From San Francisco’s historic cable cars to New York City’s Grand Central Station, public transit has helped define the character of major cities. At the same time, it has been the means of allowing them to grow. Now, technology is improving the transit passenger experience, making it safer and more efficient.
Quality public transportation has long been an equalizer that is critical to the health and well-being of urban and rural communities. Ridership has risen in tandem with the growth of urban and suburban areas until recently.
Ridership is declining across the United States, according to research. There are a few notable exceptions, such as King County Metro Transit in Seattle, where transit authorities are still expanding the system to keep up with the city’s tech boom.
It’s true that ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft may be contributing to the decline in ridership. However, authorities in transportation have identified various areas where transit is losing its competitive edge in recent years. The passenger experience is one such area.
Passenger Experience is Driving Change
Riders expect a clean experience that provides simple access to important information. This includes information such as rider warnings and route information. This is especially vital in this digital age. Many riders believe that transit authorities are not modernizing quickly enough in this aspect. As a result, ride-share applications have gained a competitive advantage.
To change that attitude, transit agencies must look beyond the redesign of websites and transit applications that are the most digital changes in this business. Instead, agencies should take a comprehensive approach to their current systems. Furthermore, they should identify important areas where technology could help them improve operations.
Digital signage now receives 400% more views than paper displays. This is boosting the number of eyes on a time-sensitive alert and enhancing the prominence of these messages. In addition, it is providing a valuable public service.
Additionally, transit agencies have the opportunity to substantially improve passenger experience by using creative new technologies. These innovations can expose developing technology that transit riders may not be familiar with. In addition, they can reinvent the capabilities of existing technologies by putting them to new uses.
Here are five areas where technology is improving other businesses and may help transit agencies start making a difference right now:
1. Technology is Improving Passenger Safety
Video surveillance systems have long been in use to improve passenger safety. They have been doing this by logging, recording, and sharing incidents with law enforcement. However, recent technological advancements allow transit agencies to go even further. Therefore, they are now using video footage for ongoing operator training.
As a result, transit agencies can design camera systems to automatically download footage following an event. They do this by incorporating video systems into a robust software package. They can then use this footage to help operators identify areas for improvement. Therefore, it is allowing agencies to increase onboard safety and even deliver a smoother trip.
2. Technology is Improving Customer Service
Social media has grown in popularity. Therefore, transit agencies around the country have been looking for innovative methods to use it. They are looking at adopting new digital marketing and customer service activities on social media.
The Milwaukee County Transit System’s Excellence Program is one of the most inventive new programs. They are using a variety of technology innovations, including video security systems and content marketing platforms. They are using these to showcase remarkable acts of kindness performed by MCTS employees. This first-of-its-kind marketing initiative has boosted employee morale and rewarded excellent customer service. This, therefore, is resulting in a better passenger experience.
3. Information Access
On-board infotainment systems provide automatic updates. They are informing passengers about route modifications, arrival times, and other important information. Technology is improving the passenger experience by merging this trip information with extra data. This includes information such as public service announcements, weather forecasts, and even advertising. Transit agencies, for example, can help law enforcement identify missing children. Furthermore, they can combat human trafficking by posting Amber Alerts.
4. Improving Personal Privacy
For years, transit agencies across the country have worked with state, local, and federal law enforcement to offer video evidence. They do so in cases of robbery, arson, assault, human trafficking, and a host of other crimes. Transit agencies can protect the privacy of individual passengers and passers-by by including face-blurring technology into their video surveillance systems. They are able to do this in the event that law enforcement wants to release video material to the media to track down criminals. This, therefore, will protect vulnerable populations like minors. At the same time, it is assuring travelers that their identities will be preserved throughout an investigation.
5. Technology is Improving Accessibility
E-paper takes technology from e-readers and applies it to mass transportation applications such as bus stops and transit stations. With its ultra-low-power panels, digital display technology saves energy. In addition, it is allowing updates to happen over the network. This is removing the need for manual updates. Displays that use solar-power displays go in remote areas. This is allowing for the expansion of rider information in rural areas without the need for major infrastructure initiatives or capital expenditures.
These examples demonstrate how technology is improving a variety of transit issues. Transit agencies should use this similar thought process in the future when contemplating new tools and services. This will ensure that they benefit both the agency and the passengers.
Agencies may create more improvement in the passenger experience by deploying technology in this manner. Furthermore, this will make it easier for transit users to engage with, access, and directly benefit from this critical public service. At the same time, it will be enhancing efficiency and ridership for the transit agency.