7 Questions to ask your passenger information supplier

Paul Everson | May 20, 2015

“Passenger Information” solutions can take many forms. To be effective, we believe today’s systems must integrate schedule, real time, alerting information and social content. With this in mind, we have put together a set of questions you can use to find a Passenger Information supplier able to meet your specific requirements.

1. What is the cost of data?

Even in these days of “open data”, it can’t be assumed that data is free. It is important to identify the data required to support your Passenger Information strategy.

Once you understand the data sets you need, you should establish which of these are owned by your organisation. If you don’t own the data, a third party source may incur one-off or transactional licence fees.

You will also need to estimate how much data will be used, and determine whether the quantities can be handled by your IT systems, as this will have a bearing on the size of your infrastructure.

And finally, remember that data needs to be refreshed. Do you understand how often, and the process for updating it?

Make sure your supplier is able to deliver a Passenger Information solution that ensures data is delivered to passengers using established, automated processes that you can control.

2. How will you keep the systems fresh?

As Passenger Information solutions include ever more real-time data and social content, internal business changes are often required to ensure the people and tools are in place to manage this dynamic content. Staff need to be on duty over extended hours (including weekends) and you need agreed procedures to publish content to your organisations’ social media accounts.

At the same time, it is important to effectively manage the general static content. This may be more of a traditional ‘nine to five’ job, though it still needs to be fresh and current. It is therefore important to establish the origin of this content and effective ways of maintaining and supporting its delivery.

Looking at the end user channels, a decision to build an App or public website is a long term commitment due to the evolving nature of devices and the public’s insatiable appetite for contemporary solutions. It is therefore important to work with a supplier who can offer a continuous upgrade path.

3. Which channels will you use?

It can be tempting to focus heavily on apps and ‘funky’ websites, but don’t forget about internal users such as call centre and back office staff.  It is important to have a consistent strategy across all internal and external channels, so that the internal staff[SD1]  aren’t disadvantaged by a system which favours the public (external) users.

Consistency is key when it comes to deciding which Passenger Information channels to use. For example, while using social media to deliver disruption information to can be useful, don’t forget that many travellers won’t access passenger information this way. Make sure your data is output consistently across all channels.

4. Can you go beyond the basics?

Passenger Information systems are now expected to contain a wide range of content - schedule information, tools for journey planning, as well as dynamic content. The majority of Passenger Information sites will include these elements, so to avoid being a ‘me too’ offer, you should be doing more.

Looking beyond the basics, a modern and effective Passenger Information system should be location-aware (read: map-based) and also include real-time data. And the content should be presented to the user as a single, integrated offer, even though the underlying data may be delivered by multiple sub-systems.

So ask yourself – and indeed your supplier – how are you going to offer your users something different?

5. What are your API credentials?

This question is in two parts.

In order to deliver your solution, you will inevitably need data from a range of sub-systems. Do the suppliers of those sub-systems offer a documented API, compliant with national data standards that allows you to integrate their content?

If you take on the role of integrating these APIs, do not underestimate the subtleties of how suppliers interpret supposedly established and defined schemas.

As a provider of the Passenger Information solution, you may also want to expose your data as an API so that third parties can embed your content - enabling you to reach a wider audience than you can do alone. Do you understand whether your data licences allow you to do this? And does your supplier’s solution scale to allow you to fulfil these goals?

6. Can you make information personal?

The importance of building and nurturing relationships with passengers and users cannot be understated. Passenger Information has a crucial role to play and can increase ridership and passenger satisfaction.

It is important to ensure information is personalised so that people only receive information that is relevant to them. This may involve using a registration system whereby users can log in and submit their personal details, including travel preferences, such as walking parameters or particular bus services.

The key here is to adopt a proactive – rather than reactive – approach to Passenger Information, and build a system where people receive travel alerts and updates automatically.

7. Are you in it for the long term?

In the current climate of increasingly constrained budgets, it is important to ensure your Passenger Information supplier can meet your aspirations and deliver your strategy cost-effectively.

Off-the-shelf solutions with a demonstrable portfolio of passenger information modules that can be configured to meet your needs will reduce the risk of ‘hidden’ costs for development.

Finally, make sure your supplier is willing to partner with you for the long term, providing a track record of maintenance and support wherever necessary, in order to ensure your Passenger Information system and strategy are successful.

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About Paul Everson

Paul Everson is Trapeze's Product Manager (Travel Information). He has been working in public transport for 18 years and joined Trapeze in 2008. Paul says: "My role within Trapeze is a mix of product and account management, which suits my interests and skillset. I find it exciting to be part of an industry that is constantly evolving".