Blog post:

2016 Predictions in Local Authority and Demand Response Transport

Andrew Fish | March 07, 2016

Tags: Demand response | Local authority |

2015 witnessed some fascinating developments in demand responsive transport and within Local Authority transport departments. As we are now well into 2016 I therefore wanted to take the opportunity to identify the trends we can expect to see in the year ahead. Let’s take a look.

Prediction #1: DRT will become mainstream

2016 onwards will witness a trend towards new alternative models of service design, in which demand responsive transport (DRT) will play a much greater role in formulating integrated transport plans – DRT is  a useful component particularly for dealing with first mile/last mile transport connections.

This is partly because we are starting to see the rise of transport models and solutions that are much more passenger-focussed and customer centric. Changing demographics are a factor here: younger people are increasingly turning away from the private car, instead looking to public transport services that offer similar flexibility and accessibility of a private vehicle.

Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) is a key technology influencer: as organisations look to address existing ‘holes’ in transport networks (for instance, the gap between a person’s house and a bus station or stop, or the integration between bus terminals and train stations), I expect to see a greater focus on technology solutions that can be used to facilitate this.

Tools and software that help increase passenger engagement will be crucial, as will those that help organisations streamline communication with passengers.

With tools like smartphone apps, which provide greater accessibility to these services, DRT no longer needs to be a niche solution operating mainly in rural areas aimed at increasing social mobility. Rather, DRT can be used as a cost-effective, mainstream alternative to traditional scheduled public transport services, providing a mid-range tailored door-to-door service that sits between the premium single occupancy taxi service and a public transport journey traveling from a bus stop.

Prediction #2: The rise of Total Transport

In Local Authorities, the trend toward the pooling and integration of resources is typified by ‘Total Transport’ – and last year’s Government Total Transport Pilot Fund has undoubtedly encouraged many transport professionals to investigate ways in which “joined up” working can be delivered.

I believe that this trend will continue apace over the coming year, and that it represents a valuable opportunity to implement structural changes that benefit Local Authorities, other transport organisations, and of course passengers themselves.

An interesting outcome will be a blurring of lines between Local Authority transport boundaries, as organisations look to find efficiencies in areas where services overlap. More integrated working between Local Authorities will unearth synergies and cost savings that could not be found in isolation.

As organisations also look to improve their integration with other agencies for example, non-emergency patient transport, we will start to see a holistic view of transport services around the UK – and this will help us to identify further opportunities for efficiency.

Prediction #3: Stakeholder integration

The administrative burden placed on Local Authority back office staff remains a drain on staff and organisational resources. I believe that 2016 will see organisations continue to address this by shifting administration away from internal staff and back offices, towards the external stakeholders through the provision of self-service online portals.

This means examining ways to integrate back office processes with third party operators, as well as organisations like schools and passengers – and of course, parents and guardians.

Shrinking the back office and ‘thinking outside the back office’ in this way benefits all involved, helping Local Authorities to save money while offering stakeholders greater control over their transport information needs

Technology will be a real enabler here, with portals like Trapeze’s Family Portal offering more efficient access to transport information.

Prediction #4: Bus passes will continue their gradual decline

Last year I made a bold prediction and said that we would see the death of the bus pass (although I did add the caveat that I didn’t think they would be completely phased out in one year). While I still don’t see imminent elimination, I remain convinced that we are headed for a future without bus passes.

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

Continued budgetary constraints will force Local Authorities to embrace smart ticketing as a cheaper and more manageable solution – and one which offers greater visibility and control over who is actually boarding buses, which in itself is likely to produce further 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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