How technology can help small transport operators recover from COVID-19

July 8, 2020
Chloe Johns

Small Transport Operators

Every transport operator, small and large, has felt the impact of COVID-19 on their business. Passenger numbers fell dramatically during lockdown, and whilst people are beginning to resume normal life, the public may still be nervous about environments they can’t control.

Small and rural transport operators

The government guidelines regarding public transport have felt like a bit of a moving target recently, and this ambiguity is making it hard for operators, particularly smaller operators, to plan ahead and make changes quickly. A fund of £283m has been announced to help the UK transport network following the pandemic, and whilst this will help to keep passengers and staff safe, is it enough to persuade the masses back on to public transport? 

At UrbanThings, we believe the key to getting passengers back on board is providing them with the information they need to complete their journey safely. Public transport operators require a solution that can show real-time travel information, yet is agile enough to keep up; this is where smart technology comes in. 

Passengers want to know that public transport is safe to take

Vehicle capacity could be a major issue as increasing numbers of people return to work. With social distancing measures in place, the amount of passengers that can ride on any given vehicle is far smaller than in pre-COVID days. We are about to face a major supply and demand issue, and smaller operators may not have the vehicles or drivers they need to keep up.

One solution that we’ve championed involved putting in place pre-booking or digital queuing to alleviate this problem. this is ideal for shuttle services, or BRT routes, but might not suit all operators, particularly those running Turn-Up-And-Go services that guarantee equality of service.  

UrbanThings is developing a technology which will let passengers know how busy an oncoming vehicle is likely to be, and whether there is the space to travel safely. We take check-in data from various sources  – such as our low-cost Hex Tag solution, or integration with existing ETM hardware, which is then combined with historic check-out data for specific stops, services and times of day to predict how busy a vehicle is likely to be when it departs. The data is fed back to the operator via our smart mobility portal and provided to the passenger via the Ticketless™ app.   

UrbanThings social distancing app

If operators are going to successfully persuade passengers back onto their services, then providing them with as much information as possible will be crucial. Letting passengers know crowding predictions means that they can make real-time decisions about their journeys, and can choose to modify their travel accordingly. For the operator, having access to this data is the gateway to optimised routes and services based on actual demand.

The UrbanThings social distancing solution will be rolled-out within our Ticketless™ platform in mid-August. To find out more, or to speak to one of the team about Ticketless, please get in touch.