Factors Propelling Public Transport Changes
What do falling numbers of school age children globally and public transport have in common?
Answer: The fewer the students, aged 14 and under, the more pressure is put on public transportation to come up with innovations to make up for lost revenue, this according to a recent survey of 300 transportation experts from engineering firms to system operators; two-thirds of them from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
Planning software developer PTV Visum commissioned the study looking for what experts in public transport see as the key drivers to change between now and 2020. Eighty percent of those surveyed believe that demographic changes -- principally an aging human population -- will be the strongest drivers impacting the level and nature of service they provide. Other identified drivers are resources (the second strongest), globalization and liberalization, both distant contenders, comparatively; though results are skewed somewhat by region. In Europe and the United States, demographics and resources polled highest. While 40% of respondents see the fall in student ridership negatively impacting their bottom lines, at least one participant, noting that while the number of children are falling (see graphic below), "the oldies are coming but also the young ones and the low earners."
Presumably, 'oldies' are the aging Baby Boom generation and the 'young ones' are Millennials, also referred to sometimes as Generation Y, a term most dislike. Income that they may once have spent on personal automobiles will likely be invested in less expensive alternatives, including, when possible, relocation to more walkable communities that are less dependent on cars.
Besides calling on governments for policies that better promote and support public transportation, most of the respondents see the need for their systems to be more adaptive, implementing new technologies to improve bus and train fleet utilization, along with increased intermodal adaptation and wider use of digital communication that enables riders to track both route schedule times via smart phones as well as electronically purchase e-tickets. Improved intermodal integration includes offering riders better access to both car and bike share systems. Adoption of 'green' technologies such as "solar buses" and hybrids ranked third in how services are planning to respond to changes, mainly, we suspect due to economics, though eventually, all will have to shift to less fossil fuel dependent systems.
The bottom-line would appear to be that the answer to sustainable urban mobility is improved intermodal integration that better matches public transit and 'last mile' solutions from bicycles (both conventional and electric-assist) to short-term car share like Paris' Autolib or Amsterdam's smart Car2Go. That will require a different mindset, one where we are less defined by what we own and more by what we know.
Download PTV Visum's policy white paper.
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