Passengers’ needs are transforming as our world becomes increasingly digital. iStock-BAU-blue

Transportation systems and the technologies behind them are constantly evolving, and information about these changes and trends is both readily available and in abundance. This is because the needs and behaviors of passengers are changing, there are many new players in the shifting mobility landscape, and there are new ecological, economical and geographical challenges cities must face as they morph into their future, smarter selves.

Which trends did we see taking over the industry in the 2010s — and how can transportation providers prepare for these new mobility norms in 2020 and the years to come? We’ve broken down three of the most important concepts and explained what puts them at the forefront of tomorrow’s (and today’s) mobility.

1.  Electrification

The shift toward alternative fuel and electric vehicles will continue in the years to come as more agencies launch sustainability initiatives and more governments mandate reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Electrification is truly a global movement across a variety of transportation modes, with a growing number of major vehicle manufacturers committing to full electrification in the decades to come.

The positive contributions e-buses offer are worth mentioning: they are environmentally friendly, improve air quality and quality of life, are quieter and thus support improved ridership and the rider experience, and there is a serious potential for lower operational costs in the long-run.

In order to navigate the potential risks and to take full advantage of all the benefits offered by these vehicles, transportation agencies will need to start rethinking the way they approach fleet management, planning, maintenance and infrastructure. Most importantly, they will need to plan ahead.

2.  Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

As mentioned earlier passengers’ needs are transforming as our world becomes increasingly digital, as environmental consciousness rises, and as convenience becomes even more of a natural expectation. Transportation, like other services, needs to be available at all times, on-demand, and more uniquely tailored to each person’s requirements. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provides the response to this challenge.

Read about the regional MaaS project, RegioMOVE, taking off in Karslruhe, Germany.

MaaS is defined as the shift from personally owned modes of transportation toward different mobility services. In a stricter sense, it covers services like ride-hailing, ride-pooling, scooter and bike sharing offered by mobility service providers. In a broader sense, it implies that personal means of transportation are no longer necessary because, through MaaS, all modes of transportation will be available when needed as integrated services. The key to successful MaaS implementations will be regional Open Mobility Platforms created and run by public transit providers.

These platforms will integrate different mobility services that are continually available, individually tailored and on-demand.

3.  Autonomous Vehicles

The advent of driverless or autonomous vehicles (AV) raises questions of funding, safety, ownership, and how public transportation as an institution will ultimately change as a result of this new technology. As private companies continue to research, test and invest in AVs, the effect these vehicles will have on normal mobility operations — both public and private — is unavoidable.
Naturally, one of the first concerns is the social impact driverless fleets will have on drivers. It’s important to also consider that with AVs, agencies could run a higher number of vehicles for the same cost while significantly increasing jobs related to servicing and maintenance — an economic win. Not to mention, the overall social and environmental impact these vehicles could have in both the short- and long-term.

Learn more about the impact AVs will have on public transit in the Podcast

AVs have the potential to drastically improve traffic safety as human error is eliminated from the driving equation. It also has the potential to help make mobility more accessible to demographics who might not currently drive or take public transit due to age or disability. Finally, AVs reduce the costs and environmental impact associated with congestion, energy and land use.

Autonomous first and last-mile services that bring travelers to and from transit hubs have the potential to make public transit more convenient and accessible while boosting ridership and revenue — with minimal new infrastructure. Service providers can also cost-effectively reach new service areas that may not be suitable for larger vehicle transportation.

Though we are stepping into a new and increasingly complex mobility paradigm, there is significant potential for public transportation providers as they continue to become the mobility brokers and invest in trends that are now major shifts in our current way of moving. 2020 and each year after offer the opportunity for public transit to take the lead in forming a more connected, more efficient, and more environmentally and socially mindful mobility structure.

Paulina McFarland is the marketing coordinator for INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc.