What’s holding the transit industry back?

According to Statistics Canada, before the pandemic, travel by personal vehicle represented 75% of all commute while public transit accounted for only 13% — this number quickly dropped to 3% in June this year.

Public transit sometimes gets a bad reputation for being unreliable and crowded, which has become a serious disadvantage during this pandemic.

These issues stem from poor data culture, which blinds transit agencies to what’s truly happening in the real world. They can also arise as a result of silos, which prevent or slow down communication between agencies.

Although many changes must be made to modernize transit infrastructure, tackling the issues of real-time data and unification is a good start. 

Clear and informative data is central to the future of the transit industry

Applications are only as good as their foundation 

Though many applications and devices relay transit information, those tools are only as good as their foundation: data. There’s also the issue of crowdsourced data from the riders themselves, which causes transit systems to become reliant on connected users. 

Data needs to be collected by the agency itself in near real-time to be useful. Transit agencies should take over and centralize riding information, such as the exact GPS location of buses, and other transit updates.

Publicizing near real-time transit data will translate into more satisfied customers and an increase in ridership. Commuters shouldn’t have to rely on riders offering up their personal data to third-party apps or static bus schedules if they’re seeking accurate and dependable transit information. 

IoT devices could be the answer 

With more connected IoT devices onboard public transit vehicles, agencies can collect more data from their fleet and offer better updates to commuters. An IoT device can serve as an in-vehicle data collector to retrieve information for analysis by a central platform. This way, only the most valuable data is extracted and shared to serve specific needs.  

For example, an agency can track their fleets’ exact GPS location as well as the vehicle’s current onboard situation, like its number of riders. This data can become highly valuable for travelers, including information like arrival and departure times, occupancy levels, service updates, and more.  

More data is good, but information is better 

Agencies need to have a clear picture of all events occurring throughout their facilities. Having a lot of data is good, but only if agencies can make sense of it and turn it into actionable information.  

Unification allows agencies to consolidate the data that currently lives in numerous systems, in one easily accessible location. When operators have a clear picture of their agency, they can more quickly turn accurate data into useful information.

Once cities make the move towards adopting a more connected and collaborative transit infrastructure, commuters will be more likely to choose public transit over personal vehicles.  

The future is now 

Before the pandemic, knowing the number of riders on a bus may not have been significant. But now, it’s more important than ever. Many transit agencies are struggling to stay afloat with ridership having hit historic lows as a result of passengers’ fear of contracting COVID-19.  

Although it’s hard to envision any good emerging from a pandemic, cities can use the current situation as an opportunity for modernization and growth.

Our cities need to adapt to this potential new “normal” to better anticipate the unexpected. Whether that be through IoT devices or other technologies, the public transit industry is due for a radical transformation. 

How the Transit Portfolio can propel you into the future 

The Genetec Transit Portfolio can help transform public transportation to give riders and operators real-time data and a unified picture of all events.

It offers transit agencies a unique, scalable, and reliable solution for those looking to modernize their infrastructure and provide commuters with better service.

It also offers agencies Fleet Monitoring to track vehicle telematics, and Mission ControlTM to automate responses for complex situations and incidents, to name a few solutions.  

Want to learn more about our transit security solutions?

Visit our transit solutions webpage 

About the Author

Jermaine Santoya

Jermaine Santoya, Industry Marketing Manager, Genetec Inc.

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