Blog post:

2015 Predictions in Local Authority Transport DRT

Andrew Fish | January 09, 2015

Tags: Local authority | Demand response | School transport |

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Prediction #1: The inexorable rise of ‘spend to save’

Like my colleague Pete, I am kicking off with an obvious – but unavoidable prediction. With Local Authority budgets continuing to be constrained by austerity measures, the focus of many transport departments will remain on efficiency of operation.

As far as investment is concerned, 2014 was defined by a ‘spend to save’ approach, and I can only see this continuing – and even increasing – as we move ahead.

However, I do believe this will present opportunities for technological innovations that will lead to more efficient working coupled with improving customer services.

We have already seen that investment supported by solid business cases that reliably show a return in terms of cost savings will succeed in this environment; I believe that as austerity measures continue to bite, this focus will intensify.

Prediction #2: Organisations will work smarter

As they attempt to survive and indeed succeed in incredibly challenging circumstances, Local Authority transport departments will have no choice but to ‘think outside the back office’.

Simply put: when recruitment budgets are limited, how do you go about improving booking processes?

One answer is to look outside the organisation and find ways to have your stakeholders take some of the strain – and if that sounds ambitious, just consider that it’s what DVLA has done with the tax disc applications process.

In local authority transport we have already seen social workers acting as a booking resource for social transport, and parents and guardians doing the same with schools transport. Not only does it support the service provider; the end users appreciate the convenience and degree of involvement too.

So where will it go next? Increased stakeholder participation could be beneficial with groups such as carers, transport operators, day care centres, carers and more.

There is a real opportunity – and increasingly a financial necessity – to use technology to improve Local Authority processes. I believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible and that this will be a key growth area in 2015.

Prediction #3: The rise of subscription services

I believe 2015 will see Local Authority Transport start to adopt subscription models relating to the receipt of information. An example is for parents to subscribe to information relating to their child’s

school transport journey. So for example, they may be able to receive a message letting them know when their child has boarded a vehicle, or receive information on their behaviour.

This would of course improve the service to the parent (who no longer has to chase information), but also to the service provider, who would see a reduction in telephone enquiries.

There are countless potential scenarios where subscription supplied information may be useful. The crucial element, of course, is that the subscription enables the parent (in this scenario) to control what information they want to receive from the service providers.

Prediction #4: More collaboration between system suppliers

As the need for efficiency and cost savings intensifies, I believe we are likely to see transport service providers look to share resources. An example might be non-emergency patient transport services collaborating with adult social care transport.

Of course many such transport providers rely on specialised transport scheduling software (such as those supplied by Trapeze), so I am expecting to see increased demands on organisations like ours to find ways to interconnect systems with other software suppliers in related sectors.

Prediction #5: Bus passes will die!

So the title may be a little premature. I don’t actually think bus passes will be completely phased out in 2015, but I do think we will see a shift towards more modern alternatives.

Printed bus passes come with a myriad of limitations, including postage costs, limited security against fraud, required administration resource, and the inconvenience of having to wait for replacement passes to be printed and delivered.

The alternative solution – the mobile ‘e-bus pass’ – has historically faced the challenge of children not having mobile phones (or parents being unwilling to let them have them), but this is already changing and I expect this trend will continue.

Faced with ongoing budgetary constraints I believe Local Authorities will embrace smart ticketing as a cheaper and more manageable solution – and one which offers better control and visibility over who is actually boarding buses, which in itself is likely to produce cost savings.

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About Andrew Fish

Andrew Fish is Trapeze's Product Manager for the Demand Responsive Transport sector of the Local Authority Transport market. He has worked in transport & technology roles ranging from software engineering to product management and implementation delivery.

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