According to research, bus ridership in many areas outside London is down 40%. Possible reasons range from changing lifestyles to stiffer competition from other transport providers. But one thing is clear. Something needs to change if the industry wants to reverse this downward trend.
The opportunity ahead is even greater. As cellular connectivity improves and cloud-based solutions develop, the capabilities will be magnified. Faster situational analysis, secure data sharing, more effective (even unlimited) data storage; these benefits will all be readily available to operators.
It’s an issue the Transport Select Committee (TSC) is aware of, and a driver behind a broad multi-agency inquiry into the health, and future potential, of the industry. The investigation will look into examples of innovation, best practice, investment in services, and value for money; in short, ways in which operators are improving, or plan to improve, customer satisfaction.
Technology will be highlighted as a vital, yet under-utilized tool in this mission. And in a way this is good news, because underutilization means the industry has at least one immediate remedy. By adopting technological solutions available today, operators can quickly take practical steps to improve passenger experience, boost ridership, and change their ‘tomorrow’.
In fact, as many vehicles are already equipped with the onboard assets needed to make this a reality, making better connections with passengers becomes a case of making better connections with vehicle systems.
To find out more about how to capitalize on the opportunity technology offers, as well as exciting developments on the horizon, visit Synectics (stand T20) at this year’s Euro Bus Expo, taking place from 30 October - 1 November at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.
1. Supporting service uptime by identifying problems sooner
Predictive maintenance is a good example of how system data can be leveraged to improve service reliability. As the first rung on the passenger experience ladder, service uptime is regularly under threat from mechanical failure. To mitigate this, operators need to be able to spot and fix problems before they escalate. Integrating and monitoring data from existing onboard systems provides this opportunity.
For example, by integrating with key vehicle systems such as CANBus, which monitor a wide range of performance parameters, operators can quickly identify pre-fail conditions that could result in a vehicle being unavailable for service. This data can be transmitted via Wi-Fi/cellular network to ensure operators have access to up-to-the-minute performance data.
Further integration with a centralised data management platform can take this a step further, allowing operators to set up tailored alerts and associated workflows.
For example, customers using Synergy 3 can monitor fleet-wide performance and configure alerts to notify users about faults – brake pad wear, engine temperature, fault codes – ensuring the right teams and tools are deployed to fix the problem.
2. Data-driven insights that promote punctuality
Ensuring consistent service uptime is just part of the puzzle. Punctuality is also critical to positive customer experience. Again, centralized data monitoring and management can help.
With Synergy 3, for instance, GPS and vehicle-tracking data can be integrated with GIS mapping and traffic/news updates in order to match vehicle movements against live congestion issues or road closures, enabling real-time re-routing to avoid unnecessary delays.
This intelligence, paired with data from on-vehicle systems such as passenger-counting solutions, can also help optimise services for passengers.
This in turn enables the prompt provision of additional services (for example, to ease demand issues that may arise around a major event such as a concert), and better planning of long-term service provision.
3. Enhancing the passenger journey and providing peace of mind
Cultivating passenger loyalty also means providing travellers with a comfortable, safe, and enriched experience. Again, looking at new ways to use existing technology can improve:
To compete with car travel in particular (privately owned vehicles, low-cost taxi services etc), passenger comfort is paramount. Just as integrated vehicle and telematics solutions can reveal mechanical issues, they can also flag pre-conditioned ‘events’ such as sudden braking or rapid acceleration; in short, driver behaviour that passengers may find off-putting. These ‘events’ can be teamed with recorded footage to give feedback to drivers to support training and help improve passenger comfort.
Better driving means safer driving, which leads to an improved experience. But should an accident occur, passengers want to know that operators can respond quickly and effectively. Linking centralized management platforms like Synergy 3 to vehicle tracking, video (IP and/or analogue), and motion data (indicating a collision) supports rapid and informed emergency service communications, giving important location and status data to responders.
Free passenger WiFi, one-to-one help at the touch of a button, real-time information on journey times and onward travel links, location-based digital displays – these are becoming expected features of an enriched journey. They are also all possible when a joined-up approach to on- and off-vehicle systems is adopted. Synectics’ telematics and on-vehicle system integration capabilities, the Synergy 3 command and control platform, and our vehicle-to-ground communication solutions, can all help operators maximize the technology and information at their disposal to enrich passenger journeys.
4. Maximizing improved passenger experience potential
Today’s technology can help the bus industry win back passengers, in many cases using data gleaned from existing systems and equipment.
But the opportunity ahead is even greater. As cellular connectivity improves and cloud-based solutions develop, the capabilities discussed here will be magnified. Faster situational analysis, secure data sharing, more effective (even unlimited) data storage; these benefits will all be readily available to operators.