The challenges posed by the coronavirus have created uncertainty in how public transportation can recover after historic ridership lows and citizens’ fear of catching the virus on crowded buses or trains. Social distancing is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and yet public transportation remains and will continue to remain a lifeline around the world.
As COVID-19 related restrictions begin easing in certain countries, there is an excellent opportunity for agencies and operators to start re-imagining public transportation, optimizing it to be more efficient, resilient, and user-friendly.
There is an Avoid-Shift-Improve approach in the transportation industry to creating more sustainable, livable cities by reducing congestion and improving mobility for citizens. While it has been a general approach to reducing carbon emissions and increasing public mobility options, Avoid-Shift-Improve offers cities, agencies, and operators the ideal approach to tackling COVID-19. From the beginning of the pandemic until now, we’ve been tackling the ‘avoid’ part with stay-in-shelter orders, reduced, adapted, or paused public transportation services, and all of the safety precautions needed to protect employees and riders.
Now, as things start to ease up, cities and transit agencies can start thinking of how we can shift riders back into the system and what services can be adapted to better fit the current situation. In short, how to win back riders.
These are two ways that Moovit has been helping agencies implement, helping ‘shift’ both riders’ perception of public transit and creating more sustainable solutions that can help lead to the final ‘improve’ stage.
One of the most important tasks public transit agencies have to take on is making sure their riders are aware when service starts up again and what changes there will be when it does. There will most likely be new safety protocols to adhere to and services may begin in staggered stages. For agencies to win back riders, it’s essential that their passengers are all aware of these changes. Get the message out in every way possible: Using social media, service announcements, and in-app notifications in the Moovit app, and their own website and announcement channels.
Further, enabling riders with real-time information on these service changes and updates along with real-time arrivals will help ease commuter stress as they begin their own ‘new normals’. Passengers may have totally new schedules in the post-COVID world, and if cities and agencies can help ease their stress and make the new transition as easy as possible, it will go a long way in gaining their loyalty back.
With the reduction of public transit and car use due to COVID-19, there has been an uptick in micromobility usage where it’s available. Worldwide, cities are beginning to encourage using bike-share, scooter-share, and similar services to prevent a rush back to single-car usage.
Cities and transit agencies have an opportunity to combine micromobility options with public transit systems in ways that will improve citizens’ urban mobility experiences and help give them confidence as they start their new normals.
The Moovit app enables users to choose from all available mobility options on their route, allowing them to use a mix of public and private mobility options to get to their destination. Armed with up-to-date schedules, routes, and other available options, citizens will have more choice in how to get where they’re going.
Flexibility is imperative in emergency situations, but transit agencies can also offer riders more flexibility in their day-to-day travel plans, as well. By partnering with bike-share and scooter-share services, riders will have the incentive to use micromobility for quick access to nearby areas, first-/last-mile access to and from public transit, as an alternative to driving cars to stations, and during surges in public transportation riders, such as during big events.
Between better, real-time communication with riders and more mobility options for citizens, cities, operators, and agencies can seamlessly move out of the ‘avoid’ stage and start giving riders confidence to come back to public transport. In our next post, we’ll discuss real ways that operators and agencies can quickly and efficiently improve services to further win riders back post-COVID.
Read Part Two on Improving Transit Services Post-COVID here.