Innovation and smart technology in public transport

Though large-scale changes to infrastructure may be difficult, smaller modifications to the transport environment can improve customer flow, speeds, and leave people with a more pleasant experience as they commute. Below are examples of services and components of the transport system that help achieve this, drawn from Hong Kong and Seoul train stations.


Above is a phone charger unit that can be found on station platforms throughout Hong Kong. It allows you to charge your phone for a maximum of 15 minutes, giving customers something to do with their waiting time. It’s a relatively cheap service for a station to provide, but could be the difference between a customer having an enjoyable trip home browsing the Internet, or having a frustrating journey with no phone.

The service is also extremely easy to use. The instructions are basic and straightforward, appear in multiple languages, use infographics, and there’s even a small pocket to hold your phone while you wait.


This is an example of dynamic signage, part of the infostructure making up the station and manifested in a physical display. Without really needing an understanding of what’s going on, you can glance at the display and quickly determine where your station is, where the train is, and how long you’ll have to wait. It’s really irrelevant what the names of the stations are because you can see it’s coming towards you and where you are. This is in real time – as the train moves across the screen you can actually hear it coming through the station.

A real time display of where a train is in the system hasn’t yet made its way to Sydney’s transport system, but there are a number of smart phone applications available that give real time information to customers.


As new technologies develop, established ways of thinking about physical objects can be changed and improved. Bulky ticket machines are needed to process paper tickets and house thick barriers to prevent fare evasion. But with the advent of smart cards and new materials, barriers can be thinned to improve customer flow and reduce the space taken up in the station. These barriers come from a station in Seoul, Korea.

These examples demonstrate simple ways the transport environment can be improved to provide flow-on benefits to customer satisfaction and efficiency of the system.