Mobile Integration and the Future of Transit

Posted 38 days ago · 3 minutes to read

August 16, 2019

As more people across the globe move into cities, city infrastructure elements—from road signs to IT systems—need to prepare for the future. Already, over half the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2030, that number is projected to jump 60 per cent.

Transport within cities is a major concern when it comes to optimising the metropolitan experience. Public transport and traffic need to be optimised to create better, more efficient cities. Different avenues of the technology keep progressing to achieve this. Personal cars are projected to become more and more like the public transport that they provide an alternative to. What’s more, mobile integration and the development of smartphones are driving these trends.

Smartphones are not only rewriting what it means to own a car. They’re presenting new opportunities in public transit fields, as urban transportation begins an overall shift toward focusing on people over vehicles.

Modern Mobile Ticketing

The biggest paradigm shift in public transport recently has been the movement from paper tickets to smart cards, but another shift is coming. As critical as smart cards have been for keeping public transport relevant in the modern age, mobile integration is projected to be the next major driver of public transit growth. Already, a number of international markets have begun to use mobile payment methods for transit systems.

We all know that smartphones are continuing to gain traction in modern culture. More and more industries have smartphone integration, and people are becoming more accustomed to being able to use their phones for just about anything.

This is a positive development for public transportation as increased mobile ticketing future-proofs the system in many ways. For example, phone integration allows new elements of infrastructure to be rolled out easily, including route-planning apps, or real-time traffic reporting. Additionally, integrating mobile devices into your public transportation signage helps your transit network stay flexible; giving people multiple avenues to receive information is critical to platform stability.

Mobile Technology and Personal Transit

Some in the transit industry have said that social media integration via smartphones could lead to users building profiles out of their behaviour. This is also sometimes called the ‘gamification’ of data. Essentially, when a user can see how many miles they’ve spent on public transport, they may be inclined to compete with their peers over the statistics, driving up transit usage, much like fitness watch wearers these days compete for step counts.

Exploring ideas like this is important because mobile apps already have such a strong position in transit, what with ride-sharing services such as Ola or Uber. These services take resources that would otherwise be untapped—idle personal transportation—and turn them into capital. This further drives the idea that cars are less personal and more of a service.

The Future of Massively Networked Transit

By achieving mobile integration in bus or train services, a city is setting itself up to be able to transition into massively networked car-sharing; a possibility that seems more real with every passing year. Given the popularity of ride-sharing apps, we can expect that more people will realise the value of taking the costs of running road vehicles and finding ways to share them among the maximum number of passengers that can use it within a given day.

To some, it still seems far-fetched, the notion of using a mobile application to automatically share your car with other citizens before it fills itself back up with gas and parks in your garage once more. But as self-driving cars continue to develop, this becomes more of a reality. Improved car-sharing has the potential to take millions of cars off the road world-wide, reducing traffic, emissions contributing to climate change, and hundreds of millions of hours of gridlocked traffic.

And again, it all comes back to mobile integration—something that any city has the means to implement now, in any existing transit management system.

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