Emerging IT technologies are transforming the relationship between public transport and its customers: that was – according to organisers UITP – the key message from the 2016 IT-TRANS, International Conference & Exhibition on IT solutions for public transport (1-3 March in Karlsruhe, Germany).
Rapid urbanisation, the insatiable rise of the smart phone and the sharing economy are all changing the way that people are using public transport and their expectations of it and the sector is already rising to the challenge. It will also mean different relationships between public transport and other, more individual forms of (public) transport, like taxis, microtransit and Technology Network Companies (TNC’s like Uber and Lyft). But who is going to coordinate this New Mobility?
“Public transport needs IT tools to enable us to be smarter and to better match supply to demand,” commented UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch. “We need to embrace the IT revolution to lead the pack and become the backbone of urban mobility through the use of all these new tools”.
Though public transport will remain the ‘backbone’ in cities, it will need to develop inter-modal platforms and integrate new mobility players. This to truly reply to customers’ needs and ensure that ride selling services are just part of the picture and not the only show in town.
“In public transport, we had been used to [just] telling people about our services…until Uber came along,” said Rahul Kumar, Senior Vice President at Transdev. “We need to [go further and] be much more dynamic in providing solutions for customer’s journeys”.
There was also a shared feeling that whilst private autonomous cars are just over the horizon, they will be unable to offer an answer to the congestion our cities face. The only real solution will be shared, electric and probably autonomous vehicles.
“The world’s population cannot continue to drive around in their automobiles, it is just not going to work,” said IT-TRANS 2016 keynote speaker and US mobility visionary, Gabe Klein. “Ownership is dead in many ways: shared mobility and public transport are the future and Ford probably won’t be making cars in 50 years”.
“We are very satisfied with this year’s IT-TRANS. Record numbers on visitors and exhibitors and a bigger share of international participants prove that the fifth edition of the event has firmly established Karlsruhe as a global hub for digital solutions in public transport,” said Britta Wirtz, Managing Director of co-organiser KMK.
According to UITP and KMK the biennial event attracted almost 500 conference delegates and 210 exhibitors (up from 162 exhibitors in 2014) from 34 countries as well as 5,000 visitors (up 36%), bringing together leaders of the IT industry and the public transport sector together with new players and providers of digital services.
- Britta Wirtz (KMK) and Alain Flausch (UITP, left) at the official opening of IT-TRANS 2016.