Summer 2021 is flying by. We are in the “dog days” of August, with travel across the U.S. skyrocketing. The low travel fares, previously seen this year and in late 2020, have seemingly evaporated with the summer heat, and roadways have become bottlenecked with heavy traffic, worse than pre-pandemic conditions.
Some transportation experts predicted we would emerge from quarantine with more traffic congestion than before the onset of the pandemic — an outcome attributed to changes on the roads. Flexible work schedules have made rush hours longer, and for those working from home, there are increasing weekday backups on local roads. As seen during the first half of the summer, stagnant international travel recovery has spurred more U.S. national road trips.
However, according to an April 2021 U.S. Travel Association Price Index, there has been a 9.5% year-over-year increase. There's also a 30.1% increase in transportation costs for the same period, due in part to rising gas prices and record demands for car rentals, which have sent prices sky-high. With surging levels of online shopping continuing and delivery trucks on the roads for the long haul, these indicators illustrate a long-standing dependence on cars and a negative impact to public transportation.
Somewhat unique to this year, is the increase in road traffic we are experiencing due to the post-pandemic return to work. In fact, under current circumstances, large cities like New York are weighing whether to institute congestion pricing policies to alleviate road snarls, while Washington, D.C. is hoping to revamp its budget, with room for adding priority bus lanes and expansion of its bikeshare program.
Therefore, now is an important time to remind people that use of public transportation contributes to the greater good of cutting down on environmentally harmful emissions and road congestion. As the national population returns to pre-COVID routines, and with more people getting vaccinated and safety protocols firmly established, we must consider whether personal vehicle usage is the right path forward.
Here are some benefits to using public transit:
Flexible Payment Options: for roadway operators, a unified customer experience may be the simplest way to achieve success by leveraging a common back office that integrates tolling and transit accounts, while reducing operational costs. For users, it means a single place to maintain and manage payment options, simplifying the overall travel experience.
Multiple Customer Service Channels: A system works best if it is available in the preferred method of interaction — and for a variety of user needs and abilities. Some customers may prefer in-person support, while many others may self-service through web or mobile apps.
Act on Transparency: Preferred customer engagement processes allows proactive, real-time engagement between customers and transportation providers through a mobile app. By linking congestion pricing, tolling, parking, traffic management, and public transit data, cities can better inform customers of real-time travel conditions, providing customers multiple options as they plan and undertake their door-to-door journeys.
Real-Time Crowding Information: Using cloud-based, real-time information and transport intelligence to deliver rich and contextual insights to multiple communications channels, so travelers can make informed decisions about transit options.
Mobility as a Service [MaaS]: Establishes an open ecosystem controlled by a public sector managing authority while allowing mobility service providers and MaaS operators access to deliver their commercial solutions and services.
Cubic is joining with public transit authorities, policymakers, and the private sector in making mobility more sustainable for a positive impact on our collective future. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and policies and solutions that create and promote transit-centric cities can improve quality of life. This summer, for those either returning to the workplace, or heading out on a road trip, we encourage everyone to prioritize the return to public transportation usage across the U.S.
Niosha Kayhani is director of Innovation at Cubic Corporation responsible for delivering impactful innovation to the public transport industry specifically focused on payments, user experience, accessibility, mobility-as-a-service, passenger flow management and security.