CitySwift

Covid-19 forced public transport to be at its most agile

BlogBlog
Opinion
Covid-19 forced public transport to be at its most agile

With hopes growing that the Covid-19 recovery has finally begun, the team at CitySwift felt it was a good time to assess the mood of the passenger transport sector. 

So we teamed up with Passenger Transport magazine to harvest the opinions of public transport professionals. 

The results expose the very real challenges and concerns they face. But they also reveal remarkable levels of optimism about the future. Boosted by efforts to achieve net zero, there is a firm belief that public transport will recover – and perhaps even play a bigger role over the coming decade. 

We share this optimism about the future prospects of public transport. High frequency, high volume fixed route bus services remain the solution to a greener recovery for our towns and cities. We need these frequent services... the trick is how to make them more dynamic. This can only be done through data and technology. 

Covid-19 has forced the public transport sector to be at its most agile, which has meant the adoption of new working practises and technologies at a pace never before seen. 

Stagecoach Group founder Sir Brian Souter once said the sector must embrace technology or risk being sidelined. The last twelve months have seen this vision become a reality – public transport is now in the midst of a huge digital transformation. 

For a while, Covid took the ‘mass’ out of ‘mass transit’. Now, we need to restore passenger confidence and ensure we put the right number of vehicles on the right routes at the right times to get people back on board. 

As we emerge from the Covid experience, operators need to accurately predict and understand how passenger demand will change - hour by hour, day by day, week by week - and ensure vehicle supply matches that demand. That will require data analytics, machine learning and the latest planning and scheduling technology. 

As we emerge from the Covid experience, operators need to accurately predict and understand how passenger demand will change - hour by hour, day by day, week by week - and ensure vehicle supply matches that demand.

If the level of innovation we’ve seen from the sector during this crisis continues, I’ve no doubt that public transport will have a very bright future.     

Brian O’Rourke is CEO of CitySwift. He is a tech-savvy entrepreneur and former CitiBank analyst with a range of experience. At CitiBank, he led big data and complex optimisation projects, specifically for the mobility sector.

The Public Transport Report 2021