Besides rapid urbanization to catch up with, cities’ sustainability currently faces two other challenges related to public transit. A recent drastic reduction in ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic; and the old fight for keeping and attracting riders using public transit instead of their own cars in a search for more flexibility when traveling. Over the last few years, we have seen the rise of new mobility solutions, such as car-sharing, bike-sharing, scooter services and other micro-mobility transport services. These modes have challenged the demand for conventional public transit services and contributed to lower transit ridership and revenue streams, providing its users with 100% digital and user-friendly features. Yet, public transit remains the more sustainable option for cities to lower their carbon emissions and contributes to the path to making cities work as a mobility-as-a-service model (Maas) that improves the wellbeing of its inhabitants.
The problem – lack of transit information
With the continuous expansion of new urban mobility solutions, users are experiencing more efficient and convenient trip planning tools than ever before, maximising their travel options. In order to make public transit more attractive, cities and transit authorities must integrate, visualize and deliver more efficient transport services. More specifically, data on when and where the services can be used needs to be publicly available.
To achieve this, public transit companies must have accurate digital maps of their public transit network – including both formal and informal routes. However, an overwhelming number of the world’s largest low and low-middle income cities do not have complete transit route maps. This creates user experience problems as riders do not have access to information about different routes and stops, as well as real-time data about arrival and departure times. To attract more riders and retain existing ones, transit data needs to be easily accessible, helping them make adequate and fast travel decisions based on time, cost and convenience.
As the options increase it is important to have a standard for transit agencies to provide their transit data in a format that can be used by different software applications like the GTFS General Transit Feed Specification. Today, the GTFS data format is used by thousands of public transit providers.
Digital maps and transit data of public transit networks can help cities to:
Make their network visible by providing riders with static (e.g. routes, stops, timetables) and dynamic realtime data (bus frequency, route adherence, waiting time, bus delays, passenger occupancy).
Integrate public transit with micro-mobility solutions (bikes, scooters, etc.), shared rides and private transport means.
Share data with third party players, such as private transport operators, passenger apps, electronic payment methods and many others.
Generate live data that allows operators to manage their fleet instantly, optimize route travel time and improve service for riders.
The eQ solution – digital maps and realtime GTFS
With eQ automated mapping tool, accurate and detailed digital maps of public transit networks are created using real-time vehicle location and machine learning algorithms. This data can be used to gain a deeper understanding and analysis of the network infrastructure, including all mapped lines, stops and terminals. Transit companies can publish their data in GTFS format, providing digital maps to its riders, allowing people to move around more easily, as stops and routes are made visible.
For monitoring transit operation and performance, the eQ planning & monitoring tool gathers live transit data about lines, routes, times and distances between stops, allowing transit companies to react in real-time. This information can then be exported in GTFS Realtime to third party applications for live transit data. Accessing real-time information about routes, schedules and frequencies of public transit can increase its flexibility and comfort, and thereby help users optimize a multi-modal journey.
An integrated transportation system that includes public transit and micro-mobility solutions can help riders with the first/last mile problem, making transit more attractive, so more people will choose it over driving their cars. To help advance this, GTFS feeds need to be available and exported to third party multimodal trip planners offering riders a seamless travel experience. Formalizing the transit network and exporting GTFS feeds are becoming necessities in creating an attractive user experience, while at the same time giving operators the tools needed to monitor their fleets for instant actions.
Providing realtime data to riders improves the overall public transit experience and encourages more public transit use, aiding Sustainable Development, ensuring that everyone has access to safe and affordable transit systems, benefiting both users and providers.