Global Transit Trends – Quotes from the UK Perspective

We asked a group of industry experts – including partners, colleagues and industry peers – to consider the influences shaping our sector in order to answer the question, “what's the biggest transit trend for 2018?

Here’s what they told us.

“MaaS services will start to become available”

- Tim Rivett, Director at Tim Rivett Consulting Ltd.

Public Facing

There will be increasingly polarized debate around the role of app based transport services such as Uber verses midi (minibus scale) and mass public transport. MaaS will start to become part of this debate and conversations but frustratingly for the customer they are unlikely to see much or any change to services.

In an increasingly short attention span audience the time to market for services which will be used needs to become much shorter, its already becoming evident that enhancements and potential services which keep being trailed in the press are boring to customers when they do arrive as they do not understand why they were not available when first talked about.

The first services pretending to be MaaS services will start to become available though they are only likely to be aggregating multiple operators ticketing apps into single app /ticketing solutions - just hiding the complexity of the current multi operator / app environment to customers offering little other than allowing a reduction in the number of apps people need to use for ticketing.

Innovative, bold, operators will start to increase standard public transport service provision (frequency and routes) in an attempt to gain young customers who are driving less and more open to shared experiences. The marketing and offer will need to be well targeted to reach the correct audience.


More talk of MAAS, scheme discussions will struggle even more to gain traction particularly outside high population density well served areas. Some will start to realise that they are not going to be able to offer all that is promised as competitive interests become more evident along with the financial realities of startups being impossible for the public sector to handle, longer term this will start to cause a break down in many schemes currently being planned.

Much of the industry will become more involved in work on account based ticketing, little will be visible to the customer but much will be promised too far in advance of being able to release to the customer, the focus on data and in particular the quality of fares data will become a major day job challenge for many as it is realised that existing data is not good enough. Some may even realise that the data gathered by 3rd parties could be better than their own and through innovation could be used by themselves.

This hopefully will become apparent in advance of anyone spending too much money on systems and launching to the public but the industry has a track record...

Public sector financial challenges will start to become much more evident in reducing service provision with more existing information services being reduced in scope or shut down to save money with the expectation that the 'private sector' and organisations such as National Traveline will pick up provision as well as expecting that the cost reductions and increased functionality of their domestic gadgets and IT translate directly into the transport technology sector.

“MaaS will progress… but won’t take over the world in 2018”

- Paul Everson, Product Manager, Trapeze Group UK

“MaaS remains a hot topic, but while I expect significant progress to take place, I’m not sure it will quite take over the transport world in 2018. Outside major cities, most UK transport providers are still trying to establish what MaaS means to them and the travelling public in their area. However, I do expect that 2018 will see elements of MaaS start to take greater hold across the country, with the industry and suppliers starting with two critical components: 1) Genuine multimodal journey planning covering public and private transport modes, and 2) Integrated ticketing alongside Journey Planning (closing the loop by enabling prospective passengers to purchase tickets after enquiring about a journey). I believe these elements – representing a form of ‘MaaS-lite’ – will evolve significantly in the next year; paving the way for subsequent developments in personal mobility.”

“Consumers, rather than transit providers, will drive how their trips happen”

- Jonathan Taylor, Publisher, Coach&BusWeek magazine

Change is happening quickly in almost every industry and almost every aspect of our lives. In transit there are three big changes occurring: the introduction of autonomous vehicles, the increasing use of electricity as a motive power source and the rising power of the consumer to determine how he/she wants to travel.

Of those three, I think the biggest trend will be that consumers, rather transit providers, will drive how their trips from A to B (and via C too if they so choose) will happen.

With internet transport search hubs finding the ideal cost/time combinations for consumers, the  transit providers will increasingly compete to have the whole or just parts of consumers’ journeys which they can provide cost effectively for the consumer and profitably for their business.

“Increasing focus on integration of transport modes”

- Kirsti Robinson, Business Unit Director, Trapeze Group UK

“In 2018 we will see increasing focus on integration of transport modes as a significant step towards what will eventually become a MaaS model. For organisations traditionally involved in delivery of Demand Responsive or Statutory Transport, integration with fixed services will offer passengers greater mobility and opportunities. This will simultaneously be driven by the impact of austerity on Local Authority budgets: as statutory and social funding become ever scarcer, the ability to feed passengers into mainstream routes will offer a precious means to increase patronage via corridors.

Finally, expect collation of transport data from different modes to be used to provide passengers with greater choice and alternatives. Ultimately, this will facilitate a shift towards a procurement model, whereby Local Authorities become brokers of information and quality controllers, rather than transport providers. In this model, technology partners will play an essential role: providing the tools to support integrated transport experiences – and ultimately access to opportunities.”

“Connected and Autonomous vehicles, of all types and uses, continues apace”

- David Hytch, Director, Park Gate Consultants

There are as we approach the end of 2017 some global trends which seem to dominate column inches and even national budgets. The growth in Connected and Autonomous vehicles, of all types and uses, continues apace. Transferring this to rail and light rail will become something we will see coming to the fore, perhaps in a less public way. Supporting this are the disciplines of Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality. 

Both of these technologies will also have an increasing impact on all other elements of transport, form customer information to ticketing and data analytics and operational management. 

Also coming are Electric vehicles and the developing Hydrogen cell trials which will lead to progress in helping to improve the air quality we all breathe. 

Payment for travel is changing but we need to remember that not all have bank accounts or smartphones or indeed that communications are sometimes not stable or good enough.

Much is being made of Mobility as a Service and I expect to see more schemes being launched in the next few years and the practicalities and management are sorted. One area is going to be the impact on rural areas using MaaS as a means to overcome the current limited bus and alternate services. 

The trends to introduce sharing whether it be cars, rides, cycles will also become a feature off 2018 and going forward to the following years.

“Increase in business model innovation”

- Mike Schofield, Director, Mike Schofield & Associates

There will be an increase in business model innovation.  There will be relentless pressure to reduce the cost of traditional bus services, especially where these are at best marginally self-sustaining and rely on local authority support, and this will give rise to new approaches to service provision.  There will be (at least) three dimensions of change:

  • Increasing recognition that vehicles need to be fit for purpose – smaller vehicles can in various circumstances offer more flexibility and lower cost than buses.
  • Increasing recognition of the passenger as a customer and not just as a user.  Service provision in the world at large is increasingly customer centric.  Transit is not exempt from this and services which meet customer needs for information, timing, flexibility, etc. will gain traction and patronage.
  • Using technology and data as the engine room to match service provision to customer needs.  Deep understanding of customer expectations alongside traditional service operational excellence will enable new flexible service models to be developed and implemented.

To enable this:

  • Enterprising local authorities will stimulate and encourage business model innovation by smart definition of service expectations and by enabling new collaborations.
  • Capabilities within the transit industry will expand to cover high quality customer insight (perhaps from retail) and powerful data analytics.

“The biggest trend could be a continuation of the slowdown in bus journey speeds”

- John Austin, Director & Managing Consultant, Austin Analytics Ltd

There will be a number of growing transit trends in 2018, many of them positive and exciting. These positive trends will be principally around the manipulation of 'big data' and real-time data sets to offer public transport operators faster ways of responding to customer demands and market pressures and also better and more efficient ways of managing and operating their assets, including with the development of new forms of alternative fuels. The same trends in data management will also be reflected in the growth, albeit slowly, of 'pop-up' and semi-flexible operations not only in some interurban and intercity corridors but on a few urban 'pilot' routes where the legislation and local arrangements allow.

New forms of authority / operator partnership will grow, following the 2017 Bus Services Act, and in innovative ways; and there will be continuing interest in Mobility as a Service (MaaS). However, 2018 will be a year where the potential barriers to the successful implementation of MaaS start to become a little clearer, after the enormous interest in it in 2017. Some of these barriers relate to delivering reliability of road-based services in the face of traffic congestion. But with a continuing paucity of major urban bus corridor infrastructure improvements being delivered, it is possible that alongside growth in urban rail (particularly as the first section of Crossrail is opened), the biggest transit trend in 2018 could be a continuation of the slowdown in bus journey speeds.

“The influence of the Bus Services Act will be felt”

- Peter Bell, Chief Technology Officer, Trapeze Group UK

“The influence of the Buses Bill – signed in to law in 2017 – on UK transport will be felt in two main ways. Firstly, the Bill anticipates and requires the ability for operators to share information regarding fares – so expect to see greater focus on integrated ticketing across regions, likely moving towards a national EMV scheme. Secondly, the Bill encourages use of Open Data as a way to entice start-up developers to enter the market. I expect we will see this type of information used to drive innovative new applications, including MaaS-type solutions offering integrated ticketing and journey planning. The best innovations here are likely to be entirely new ideas that shake up the industry – so watch this space. One final thought: It won’t necessarily be complete in 2018, but I do believe that next year we will see an acceleration in the trend towards merging of DRT and traditional fixed route services.

“It has never been a more confusing, or exciting, time to lead a business…”

- Giles Bailey, Managing Director, Stratageeb

Business disruption, new technologies, new business propositions, sustainability issues, globalisation, changing customer expectations… It has never been a more confusing, or exciting, time to lead a business. So many factors are leading to new opportunities as well as threats. This is across the business spectrum as well as in transport and public transit. There are a number of factors converging and leading to change in the coming years.  Which will deliver the fundamental business change in 2018, as opposed to the early 2020’s? It is difficult to tell precisely, but a number of trends will start to become clearer in the coming year. The potential list of trends is quite long, but I’m going to focus in on a few points that are particularly relevant or interesting regarding these changes.

While not directly related to the public transit industry, a key trend is the electrification of transport and its mass market appeal. This in time will enable a wholly new eco-system across all modes of travel. This trend is increasingly gaining momentum, across the car industry with each month another OEM coming forward to say how many more new electric models it will be delivering in the coming years. Meanwhile, governments are moving forward with bans and restrictions on the use of petrol/ diesel engine vehicles across the world over the coming years. A key issue for 2018, however, is whether Tesla will be able to start mass delivery of its Model 3. This model already has demonstrated extensive global consumer interest and its delivery will accelerate the development of the entire electric vehicle market for all manufacturers.  The electrification of car transport then has increasing implications for automation, sharing systems and in turn the role of public transport.

Ride hailing services continue to dominate discussions about new mobility opportunities in locations around the world. There are now an increasing number of operators including global players and local niche operators in various locations. However, a key trend is ultimate role that these services will play in the delivery of urban mobility and how they can successfully work with existing publically funded transport services. Various markets have often quite divergent needs. The issues in suburban America regarding the role and ubiquity of public transport versus small towns in Europe versus global mega cities such as London and Paris are all different. However, there is a growing sense that a free market, winner takes all model that directly “skims off” the most lucrative segments of the existing public transport service with little regard for the public obligations of urban life and priorities is broadly unworkable, and indeed unacceptable, in many cities. Cities want to see innovation, but they also want to have a sense of control of collective urban life as well as the effectiveness of public investment in transport that reflects the needs and politics of the city. The relatively open market for ride hailing apps is a potentially huge threat to this model. While, these services have made the transport industry much more aware of the need for change and innovation and to react to competition, I would argue that in 2018 we will see more cities taking a strategic view about these services and being much more prescriptive about how and where they should operate and taking measures to directly tackle their negative impacts.

Another “new” mode that is rapidly impacting urban mobility is the free-floating cycle hire service. While only recently arriving in Western cities following its development largely in China, these scheme have the potential to rapidly change the assumptions and use of cycling. Similarly to ride hailing apps, they are operating in essentially a free market at present and being rolled out extremely rapidly. They also challenge most of the assumptions about the earlier cycle hire schemes being costly, incremental in coverage, exclusive to one operator and in many ways very restrictive. Potentially, cycle hire scheme can now begin very quickly almost anywhere. This has significant impacts for congested public spaces as well as for public transport operators who quite rapidly can face a competitive challenger. This is particularly for short to medium length journeys, poorly served corridors as well as the young adult market. We will inevitably see many of these scheme launched around the world in 2018 and the summer of next year will be in many ways the year of the cycling disruptor!

Finally, in this short list, the above example highlights that emergence of new mobility solutions coming from the emerging economies of the world and being deployed in Western markets. As stated, cities are different in many ways regarding size, quality of life, inclusiveness, etc, but they are also very similar in needing to deal with the mass movement of many kinds of people on a daily basis. There should be no assumptions that the flow of innovation can only be one way. The coming year will inevitably see more innovations that have been conceptualised, tested and perfected in other economies rapidly coming to other cities in a globalising world.

“Operators will change how they manage disruption”

- Paul Everson, Product Manager, Trapeze Group UK

“2018 will witness significant change in how bus operators manage disruption at different levels within the organisation. Until now it has been fairly common for operators to define schedules weeks in advance, with little ability to update them to reflect the reality of what actually happens on the day. As a result, data exchange has broken down between operations and passengers. Yet technology integration is now removing silos that once existed. I think in 2018, bus operators’ operations teams will become more aware of their role in passenger information, using data standards to automatically pass information between departments.”

About The Trapeze Team

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The Trapeze Team are here to bring you news and information from Trapeze Group (UK) and the public transportation industry.