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Getting public transit back on track

Why now is the right time to start building an IoT ecosystem for your city’s transportation

Woman waiting at bus stop for bus

Public transit across Canada carries millions of passengers every month – or at least, it did. Prior to the pandemic, agencies could expect well over 150 million riders every few weeks, but that plummeted to less than 26 million passengers in April 20201. Though ridership has since risen, numbers have yet to hit the 100 million mark, even as businesses, schools and shops reopen.

This decrease has led to reduced revenue and increased operational costs. Of course, challenges are not new to the space. Even before COVID-19, agencies struggled with high costs, staffing, inefficiency and competition from rideshare organizations.

The culmination of these issues, coupled with pandemic revenue loss, has led agencies to reconsider their overall strategy and consider the future of public transit. Old processes, approaches and structures are no longer sufficient and if changes aren’t made, operations could be at serious risk.

How to meet changing rider expectations

The expectations of passengers have changed, even within the past decade and they now expect a more efficient, informed journey with service based on their individual needs. As a response, most agencies have some level of digital optimization, whether it’s automated display signs showing bus arrival times or an interactive smartphone app. Not only is this important to meet rider needs, but technology can help improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve the rider experience – which are critical in today’s environment. Depending on the agency’s goals and objectives, a variety of tools and products can be employed to help improve and advance every transit system.

Opportunities for innovation in public transit:

1. Connected bus stops

Nearly every agency has its fixed routes, along with timetables printed on bus stops for passengers. However, factors like weather and traffic can impact a driver’s ability to adhere to pre-set arrival times, leading to frustrated riders. One of the simplest yet most effective tools to increase passenger satisfaction is the addition of a connected bus stop. The solar/battery-operated unit from BusPas allows agencies to replace their current stop in as little as one hour. The new displays connect with smart sensors and provide passengers with up-to-date information on arrivals, along with bus capacity rates.

2. On-demand transit

It’s always frustrating for agencies to see near-empty buses running or have passengers experience long waits. That’s why cities like Saskatoon and Stratford have already implemented an on-demand model from Pantonium for their riders. Essentially, buses will travel according to real-time passenger needs, creating more efficient routes for both riders and drivers. An optimized algorithm will determine routing automatically and the method has proven to help reduce costs and increase ridership, without requiring more vehicles.

3. Predictive maintenance

Bus repairs and breakdowns are both costly and time-consuming, especially with technician shortages. To help streamline this process, Preteckt offers cloud-based vehicle prognostics. This technology allows for faster, more accurate problem-solving that can help extend the lifespan of a vehicle. Fleet managers can receive email notifications and explore an online dashboard in order to gain a comprehensive view of their fleet health for better planning.

The need to transform is essential as agencies plan for future integrations. Now, as many are still recovering financially from low pandemic ridership rates, it may be the optimal time to implement a new tool to help bring passengers back to transit. To get started, visit our public transit hub.

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