A year in demand responsive transport: reflections on 2015Andrew Fish | February 24, 2016
Looking back to this time last year, it’s fascinating to see which of the predictions I made in 2015 have come true. Before we look forward to the year ahead, I wanted to quickly review these predictions, and to evaluate which ones have come true, and which ones still might…
Prediction #1: The inexorable rise of ‘spend to save’
With Local Authority budgets continuing to be constrained by austerity measures, I predicted that the focus of many transport departments would remain on efficiency of operation – with organisations looking to invest in technology solutions that would help them work more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Over the course of last year, we certainly saw evidence to suggest this prediction came true. Various organisations, such as SPT, for example, demonstrated the benefits that could be derived by investing in solutions that ultimately save money.
We’ve also seen a number of local authorities embrace the concept of ‘spend to save’ as part of their approaches to Total Transport. Here we’ve seen a growing focus on investing in technology to facilitate savings via integrating transport services and more “joined up” working.
Developments in Total Transport are fascinating, and we’re watching with interest to see how the Government’s Pilot Project goes over the coming year, and are keen to see how technology can support these projects.
Prediction #2: Organisations will work smarter
As they attempt to succeed in incredibly challenging circumstances, Local Authority transport departments have had no choice but to “think outside the back office”.
Indeed, increasing stakeholder engagement has been a core focus of a number of organisations, because of how it can help improve efficiency – with external stakeholders like parents, social workers and so on taking on some of the administrative tasks previously done by internal Local Authority staff.
This trend has been reflected in our products. For example, our Family Portal tool has the potential to really revolutionise the way applications for school transport are managed; saving Local Authority staff time, and the organisations themselves money. Equally, the TravelMate module for PASS and NOVUS DR can deliver fast return on investment by empowering passengers to make their own bookings for demand response transport.
Prediction #3: The rise of subscription services
When I made this prediction, I based it on the belief that we would begin to see stakeholders, particularly parents & guardians, offered the opportunity to subscribe to information services. In return, Local Authorities would provide stakeholders with relevant information that they’d asked to receive.
It’s still early days here, but it is something I expect to continue to develop, especially over the course of the year ahead – and in fact, the early signs from some Local Authorities suggest this is indeed a growing trend.
While it might not have happened as quickly as I anticipated, I do see this as becoming an integral aspect of mobile applications. The opportunity to establish subscription models that would provide, for example, information to parents relating to their child’s school transport journey, is one that has a number of benefits.
For example, parents could receive important information confirming whether their child has boarded a school bus, or even receive information on their child’s behaviour on board.
This would not only lead to greater stakeholder satisfaction, and a higher quality of service, it could also increase child safety, and a reduction in telephone enquiries from parents, who would no longer need to phone transport departments to find out this sort of information.
Prediction #4: More collaboration between system suppliers
As with my first prediction, this is something I expect to see heavily influenced by the Total Transport trend.
In order to enable efficient joined up, integrated working between different departments within an organisation, as well as between different organisations (for example, between Local Authorities, bus operators, schools, as well as non-emergency patient transport), it will become necessary to have different software systems interfacing with each other.
In order to exchange data and information between, say, a Local Authority transport department and an NHS non-emergency patient transport team, it will be necessary to use software that can facilitate the connection between different systems.
Prediction #5: Bus passes will die!
I accepted last year when I first made this prediction that it may be a little premature. And this has been proved this year, as bus passes are still very much with us.
However, the decline of bus passes remains a distinct and definite trend. This is largely because 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.
Because of this, I expect that mobile bus passes, or ‘e-bus passes’ will increase in popularity, and as their rise continues, the decline of traditional paper bus passes will continue.
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