How is digital changing public transport?

Our partner agency MediaCom recently produced a report entitled ‘Cultural trends and what they mean for the future of public transport’, which identifies and explores six key cultural trends, and predicts the effects they might have on how public transport evolves. The report’s certainly got us excited about what the future holds (Uber-style buses, anyone?), so we wanted to share the two insights we think will have the widest-ranging impact, digitally speaking – both for our clients and for the travel industry as a whole.

The desire for personalisation and instant gratification

What’s the trend?

Reflecting the wider, much-talked-about trend of personalisation, research has revealed that consumers’ desire for ‘no waiting’, tailor-made services within the public transport sector is increasing (along with their impatience).

In a recent YouGov-commissioned survey, 65% of passengers said they thought that five minutes was too long to have to want for a tube train, and 22% said that they wouldn’t expect to have to wait for more than 10 minutes for an Uber.

In a separate Transport for London survey, 19% of people wanted bus services to be more reliable, and 32% wanted improved routes. While a Department of Transport survey revealed that 45% think travelling by train is more inconvenient than travelling by car.

What’s coming?

Those fed up with dealing with unreliable buses and inconvenient routes will welcome the introduction of the Olli, an ‘on demand’ bus, which works in a similar way to Uber. Olli can instantly make routes personalised to individual users and can also react to human voices – so you can climb on-board, say ‘Olli, take me to Starbucks’ and it’ll adjust the route to get you there.

Apps and software to help public transport providers personalise services are also being launched. Traxo has created three platforms – ‘Connect’ ‘Capture’ and ‘Traveller’ – designed to make business travel hassle-free by collecting together booking receipts and emails so that making expense claims is quicker and easier.

Then there’s the Whim app, which collates access to public transport options and tickets. Originally launched in Helsinki, a beta version of this one is currently available in West Midlands, so it could soon be rolled out across the UK.

The expectation of automation

What’s the trend?

Busier lives and longer working hours mean we want day-to-day tasks to be as quick and easy as possible.

Consumers want – and expect – these kinds of interactions to be hassle-free. Reflecting this, 57% say they’ll be ready to use automatic purchasing technology, like Amazon Dash, by the end of 2018.

Automated ticketing systems like Oyster and contactless payment on the London Underground have led the way in the public transport sector in terms of making travel more efficient. But what’s next?

What’s coming?

Bristol Robotics Lab and Cubic are currently working on smart biometric ticketing system for London underground and train stations that would do away with a physical ticket all together and instead use biometric details like commuters’ facial features or palm prints.

The technology will scan commuters as they walk through a ticketing lane to determine if they have a valid ticket. This means those with tickets won’t have to stop at ticket barriers, reducing congestion in stations and making getting on with your journey easier.

There’s also a growing trend for automated airports that allow travellers to pass through the terminal more easily. Changi airport in Singapore has already become the world’s first ‘contactless’ airport, with passengers able to pass through totally machine-operated security and passport checks and baggage drop-off systems.

Automated security checkpoints are also being installed in airports in New York and Miami, and there are plans in place to adopt them in other US airports soon.

Passengers are responding well to the changes – in the first half of 2017, 58% of global travellers used automated security lanes. And 90% of them were satisfied with the experience.

Interested in finding out more about what’s on the horizon for the public transport sector? Then download the full Cultural Transport Trends report.


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