Eliminating uncertainty in the transport network

A core difference between public transport systems and individual transport like the motor vehicle is the perception of control. When a person’s driving a car, there’s a sense that you are able to make decisions about your departure time, arrival time, and the route you take to your destination.

Of course, traffic jams and delays affect this sense of control, but it still exists. On public transport, however, there needs to be shared arrival and departure times and routes so that many people may partake in and benefit from the same shared transport. There’s less perceived control on public transport because scheduled times can’t be affected by individuals.

Further, delays arguably have a greater effect on a sense of uncertainty that sometimes comes with public transport. When a delay happens while you’re driving, you still have control over your route and can (usually) make choices to try and avoid the delay (such as leaving a highway for a different road). What’s perceived in public transport is that if there’s delay and uncertainty, you are ‘locked in’ to the route you’ve taken and the delays that come with it. Further, often it was unknown whether there would be a delay or not and information could sometimes be slow coming to customers on platforms or at stops.

But access to dynamic information and the opportunities presented by the smartphone give customers a greater sense of control than previously. Particularly with the advent of real-time information being provided to customers – through mobile apps like TripView – people are able to see delays adjust their trips accordingly.

There’s now animated, quick-process versions of trip planning on your smartphone, on call all the time. It’s also possible for customers to know when they need to replan a trip because there’s dynamic information coming all the time, empowering them to make different decisions. The uncertainty that was in some aspects of public transport – more and more of that is being eliminated through the use of dynamic information.

What’s also on the rise is personalisation. Trip planning now allows you to personalise your journey and further reduce uncertainty as you’re able to work out when and where you want to be within a system to optimise your trip. Rather than having access to a static timetable, customers can build a series of routes together and see all possible connections.

Now that we are up and running with dynamic smartphone timetabling, the possibilities will only continue to improve. Historically, there was very little data available regarding transport systems and what was happening within them. This meant transport planners had to try to model almost everything and anything. But with the advent of smartphones, it’s far easier to get more and richer data, which is a core essential of the responsive transport systems we’re investigating within Encircle. We’re seeing the beginnings of what’s possible when these richer sources of data – like smartphones – are tapped into.