Making accurate predictions in an increasingly unpredictable world can be a fool’s errand, but Galen Chui, Senior Vice-President of Engineering & Products at Cubic Transportation Systems, looks at the trends that will shape public transport in the coming year.

The increasing role of Mobility-as-a-Service models

Umo Pass Greenville bus tap

This year is unlikely to be the year that sees widespread adoption of Mobility-as-a-Service, which integrates multiple transport modes into a single user experience, but the concept will demonstrate further growth and maturity.

We can expect a greater focus on accessibility, safety, reliability and transparency, with an emphasis on clear information about vehicle locations and arrival times. We should also prepare for an uptick in shared-use mobility, including ridesharing and rental scooters. Proactive AI-driven chatbots and apps will alert people as they approach a station, providing actionable information such as reminding them to top-up their account or informing them that a lift is out of service.

More MaaS suppliers will enter the market in 2023, increasing choice and offering multiple modes. However, some questions will remain front and centre: how can transport agencies build a connection with their users to alert them to arrival and departure times; and how can we integrate all transport-related products into a single, seamless consumer experience?

Building rider trust

Queensland ticket gate (Photo Cubic Transportation Systems )

Commuting patterns have changed post-pandemic, with less predictable journeys requiring more nimble and versatile technology. This will be the year for operators to re-establish rider confidence, ensuring that passengers know they can rely on optimised and efficient networks to get them where they need to be, quickly and safely.

We expect to see a continuing rise in the number of people returning to the office, with service reliability being a key issue. This is where MaaS will come into play: integrating multiple transport modes into a unified experience while building passenger trust.

Investment in innovations such as smart junctions, multimodal transport and digital transformation will help deliver enhanced safety, accessibility, equity and reliability, further bolstering trust.

Protecting vulnerable people

London Croydon tram and bicycle lane

This year will see the continued embrace of initiatives to protect the more vulnerable among us by improving safety for all travellers, minimising congestion and reducing road emissions that exacerbate climate change and ill health.

There will be more programmes focused on encouraging people to adopt climate-friendly and more active modes such as walking and cycling. However, it will be vital to ensure the safety of vulnerable road users by introducing comprehensive, inclusive initiatives that provide guaranteed access to the transport system for people who walk, cycle or roll. Experiments with machine learning and sensor fusion will play a part in improving safety, accessibility and inclusion.

Evolution of consumer digital expectations and procurement cycles

Cubic Transportation Systems

Rapidly evolving platforms have increased consumers’ digital expectations, and continue to do so. Transport operators that have invested in account-based payment systems will be well placed to provide the desired customer experience and appropriate pricing models.

At the same time, transport agencies will need to facilitate rapid evolution, which is not always viable within traditional long procurement lifecycles. Increasingly agile procurements — such as framework agreements and the co-creation of public-private revenue collection programmes — will be needed, but for successful deployments a robust core technology platform must sit at the heart of any project.

The role of infrastructure in the future of work

Passenger using mobile phone

Working from home during the pandemic has irrevocably changed how many people commute, and 2023 will see transport agencies attempting to influence commuter behaviour in order to encourage a higher proportion of in-office work.

Developing the required infrastructure in urban and inter-urban areas will play a part in enabling this transition. At the same time, by converging road and fare collection methods, agencies can exploit their data resources to provide meaningful incentives such as tax credits, to encourage the choice of public transport options.

Migration to open payment systems

Cubic Transportation Systems

The open payment ecosystem has the potential to unlock transport services and networks for millions of unbanked people around the world, and 2023 promises to see the continuing evolution of less expensive, more flexible, decentralised and transparent payment options.

This will also deliver opportunities for advanced digital economies and for agencies that may have under-invested in the past but can now leapfrog the dominant payment technologies of the past 15 years by embracing the brave new world of open payments. New mobile service payment options will bridge the gap between different operators and agencies, making disjointed passenger payment experiences a thing of the past.

There will be a continuing decline in the use of season tickets and subscription models, with multi-modal tap-and-go and seamless contactless payments fare-capping becoming the norm. This will require real-time data and transaction processing, along with account-based apps. Transport networks will increasingly rely on ‘transport credential roaming services’ to overcome closed-loop transit ecosystems.

These are just a handful of the trends that will come to the fore in 2023. Undoubtedly there will be others, some of which none of us will see coming. The most important thing is to ensure that transport services are agile, flexible and adaptable to address the challenges that we all face.