Six technologies for Total TransportThe Trapeze Team | April 21, 2016
You’ve heard all about Total Transport as a way for Local Authority transport departments to deliver services with ever shrinking budgets. Perhaps you’ve even received some of the £7.6 million pilot fund distributed to 37 Local Authorities.
We think the potential here is huge; just ask PTEG: “there has never been a better time for agencies across transport sectors to pool resources and expertise […] focusing on the pooling of vehicle fleets and budgets as a practical, tangible way forward.”
Sounds great! But how do you go about building your Total Transport utopia? After all, integrating disparate transport departments, organisations and resources is easier said than done.
In this article we examine six technologies, which, used separately or in conjunction with others, will support Local Authorities step forward into the brave new world of Total Transport.
1. Passenger self-service tools
As Local Authorities move to integrate departments and services within their own organisation – and, indeed, as Local Authorities begin to integrate with others to form so-called ‘Total Transport Authorities’ – passenger self-service tools will be vital.
This is because integration will see the numbers of stakeholders transport and booking staff must communicate and engage with rapidly increase, creating an explosion in terms of administrative tasks, processes and workload relating to stakeholder communications. Existing methods of passenger communication – notably telephone calls, email or postal correspondence – won’t be fit for purpose in this new integrated model.
Passenger self-service tools offer a real solution here by reducing the administrative burden on office staff, while simultaneously improving customer service strategies.
They also provide a means of standardising previously disparate data formats and storage locations: meaning they can be combined into a single, streamlined system: optimising data management processes and improving data quality.
The benefits here werequickly recognised by individuals working on Total Transport pilot projects. For example, at the ATCO 2015 conference in Ipswich, Peter Walker from West Berkshire Council argued that self-service would be vital, with IT systems offering online booking portals for users that complement an asset database used by internal office staff.
2. Passenger information
Closely connected to self-service is the need to invest in modern passenger information solutions. Once a passenger has submitted a request for transport, for instance, or engaged with the Local Authority via an online portal, it is important that organisation supports them with the information they need to make informed travel decisions, and to feel confident about their journeys.
We already know some of the benefits to be gained from investing in passenger information – such as real-time passenger information technology or push notifications regarding travel disruptions or alerts – but they are especially important in building an effective Total Transport model because they can significantly streamline passenger communications, thereby reducing workload for staff.
And, of course, this also improves quality of service to passengers. Stakeholders need to know as much information as possible about various different transport services: for instance, parents and schools need to know if their child’s bus will arrive late; while doctors can make better use of their time if they know a patient using Non-Emergency transport will arrive later than expected – perhaps seeing another patient or catching up on paperwork.
By keeping stakeholders informed, you keep them engaged with the process: which helps them feel more in control of – and more confident about – the transport process.
Indeed, if passenger information is done well, and effectively incorporated into a Total Transport model, it’s not just Local Authorities who benefit; but a plethora of other people and services throughout the region – fulfilling some of the key objectives of the Government’s Total Transport initiative.
3. Driver management
As it currently stands, different fleets of vehicles are driven by different pools of drivers; each managed by different departments within different organisations. Yet when these people and vehicles are brought together into a unified pool under the Total Transport model, the corresponding internal communication and administrative task load will likely become unmanageable without effective modern technology solutions.
Indeed, without driver management tools – such as Trapeze’s DriverMate – staff would have to plan passenger journeys days in advance; and would be unable to make any necessary real-time changes or updates – potentially creating huge inefficiencies. What’s more, using manual systems here would also greatly increase the risk of data entry errors, which could spell disaster for an organisation’s transport service delivery.
Driver management tools provide Local Authorities with the flexibility they need to run their services effectively – enabling schedules to be adapted during the day as trips are cancelled or booked by passengers.
And these tools also provide vital data that help support some of the other technologies here. For instance, they can feed into passenger information systems, keeping stakeholders informed about expected arrival times or relevant journey updates.
They not only provide significant cost savings, but also improve the lives of both drivers and passengers; as Leeds City Council have discovered. And, of course, they enable organisations to utilise their assets more efficiently.
4. Scheduling tools
As Trapeze’s Mark Lee noted at the recent Trapeze UK Conference, traditional manual scheduling methods used by Local Authority staff are incredibly impressive and require a great deal of skill and expertise. However, when multiple services, assets, departments and organisations are merged together – as in Total Transport – the situation will likely become too complicated to rely on manual processes alone. In the integrated future of Total Transport, therefore automatic software tools are the solution.
Automatic scheduling software helps reduce the risk of manual errors, ensuring pinpoint accuracy of scheduling decisions, while also optimising utilisation of vehicle fleets.
Indeed, the right software solution helps scheduling experts within Local Authorities work more effectively – freeing up their time so they can focus on mission critical scheduling situations.
By integrating a GIS/mapping display into the scheduling solution, this can also help identify transport network overlaps and instances of vehicle duplication; saving organisations significant money.
5. Electronic ticketing
As vehicle fleets are integrated, and the number of trips drivers are tasked with driving each day subsequently increases, electronic ticketing tools can complement Total Transport by streamlining payment processes and validating passengers: making sure that every person who requires transport (be it for schools transport, non-emergency patient transport, adult social care or any other service) is duly picked up.
Again, another real benefit here is through efficiency savings made by reducing the amount of administrative work Local Authority employees are tasked with. But, of course, it also benefits the passenger; as boarding becomes easier, and the entire payment process is made more convenient for them.
6. Brokerage software
Perhaps one outcome of the Total Transport agenda will be the creation of centralised ‘Transport Hubs’, which will coordinate and broker transport services, rather than directly provisioning them. In this model, stakeholders would book via the hub to request transport, and the systems would then allow streamlined coordination with contracted transport providers to fulfil the transport request.
Models such as this already exist in North America within the non-emergency medical transport sector, and as you might expect, in order to run effectively they rely on high-quality software solutions. Systems specifically designed to support a brokerage model – such as Trapeze’s Trip Broker module – would be vital here, as these systems will assist staff in the “Transport Hubs” to coordinate effectively with contracted transport providers; streamlining transport requests and supporting efficient trip allocation processes.
Taking this one stage further, then, allowing transport hubs to interconnect and exchange trips is also a possibility within this model. Trapeze’s Community Connect system facilitates the coordination of trip requests between separate transport services systems and streamlines the flow of information – making it easier to transfer and manage different types of journey booking data.
More than anything, Total Transport points to an integrated future for Local Authority transport; one where organisations that think innovatively and proactively – and invest wisely – will be best placed to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. Technology clearly has a huge role to play here, and we hope this article has helped outline the options available.