The Australian Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) held its annual conference in Hobart, Tasmania from 12 – 15 November 2017. The theme this year was Moving People – Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and we saw a lot of thought leadership and positive energy around this megatrend and what it means for the bus industry. Written by Gerard Cooper
If you were not able to attend BIC this year, read on for a quick summary of the highlights:
Kudos to the BIC organisers for ensuring we had a good line-up of speakers and presentations on various aspects of MaaS. I felt I learnt a lot more about the concept, how big data plays into it and what it all means for public transport – the bus industry in particular.
It’s clear that there are a number of disruptive technologies out there attempting to be the next big thing. What is unclear is which ones will add sustainable value.
From a government planning level to authorities and even transport operators, we all need to be consuming and understanding the ever-increasing amount of data available to us in order to figure out what path to take and how to deliver these solutions with the greatest effect.
There were many well-considered arguments for and against any value the various types of disruptive technologies could bring to public transport in the future floated at the conference. For example: the role of autonomous vehicles. Will they be the silver bullet that solves all our problems? Or will they only provide transport for the privileged and add even more congestion to the roads as cars drive around with nobody in them?
And of course, how will any new mobility options brought about by MaaS be paid for? The discussions around fare payments and ticketing models showed that various organisations have thought long and hard about how we will pay for our transport in the future. I found the subscription-based modelling concept, like the way we currently pay for mobile phone plans or Spotify and Netflix, particularly interesting.
Demand responsive transport (DRT), while fairly well-established in other regions, has only recently started taking foothold in Australia. There are currently trials in Queensland and New South Wales, but for the most part this method of transport is still new for us. That said, the sense I got was that DRT is the way of the near future and will be a growing business for bus operators.
Clint Feuerherdt, CEO of Transit Systems, gave an enjoyable presentation on their operations in Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Everyone loves a success story, and it was great to hear the story of how Transit Systems has grown over the last few years and expanded into new markets like on-demand transport.
We were also given the opportunity to present at BIC on this subject. Mel Pecen (Managing Director Australia & New Zealand) delivered an educational talk on DRT around the globe, drawing on our company’s international experience in Europe and North America:
Demand Response: How cities around the world have responded to this global phenomenon
There are several reasons why DRT has become a worldwide phenomenon. It caters to increased societal expectations around inclusivity and accessibility for all groups, meets customer expectations of convenience in an efficient way and provides ecological benefits.
The biggest take-home lesson of this presentation is that there is no prescriptive definition of what a DRT service has to be. There are numerous kinds of on-demand services, from literal door-to-door pick-ups and drop-offs to stop-to-stop services that are similar to the familiar fixed route, except that they only run when a passenger makes a request.
The customers served by DRT also differ depending on the implementation’s purpose. In North America, DRT is often called paratransit because the most common application is a specialised service for people with disabilities that prevent them from accessing regular modes of public transport. However, in parts of Europe it is a service open to all residents in rural areas where running fixed route services would not be cost-effective.
Transport authorities and operators need to find out what your target community needs and what type of DRT will serve them best.
If you weren’t able to make it to BIC this year, I highly recommend that you do so next year. There were many great presentations on areas that affect bus operators and some very thought-provoking discussions on the future of public transport. The clear message I came away with was that you need to be involved in these discussions about the bus industry’s role in the public transport ecosystem of tomorrow to stay up to date and succeed.
On my part, BIC is always a high point of my year as it’s one of the best opportunities to catch up with fellow bus professionals and get their take on current trends. It was great to spend some time with Clint Feuerherdt, Greg Balkin and Dan Moore from Transit Systems; David Bishara of Transit Australia Group; Clarks Logan City Buses CEO Graham Davis; Interline Group’s Joe Oliveri; and Tammie Perret from Kangaroo Bus Lines.
Can’t wait for Cairns and the joint BIC / NZ BCA 2018 conference!