Transportation Refresh: Finding the Way Forward

By Kyle Connor

We take a look at how the pandemic has interrupted the status quo for transportation around the world, while we assess the implications for the future of mobility.

Co-authored with Andy Manuel 

A few weeks ago, scrolling through LinkedIn, I saw a cartoon graphic asking: “What digitized your organization?” The options for response were A) CIO; B) CTO; C) COVID-19.  Since then, I have been asking transportation agencies the same question.

What I have found and continue to find is that many agencies are rapidly adapting to the uncertainty that continues to unfold. Additionally, secure access and connectivity continue to be the foundation that allows for this flexibility.

Smarter Transportation

Adaptation can be viewed in many ways.

Some organisations are accelerating programmes like contactless payment and ridership awareness for social distancing via smart phone apps. Others have been forced to alter routes and slow plans for improved digital services at bus stops and stations due to having less revenue and lower ridership demands.

Roadway authorities are considering the need for cloud-based solutions, virtualised services, and remote management. Railway companies are in the process of looking at new business models to offset revenue losses and rethinking passenger experience.

Regardless, transportation is a necessity for all. There is a critical need for access to transportation, especially during the pandemic. This is why we continue to see encouraging examples across the world, where transportation agencies are adapting transit services – or launching new ones altogether – to address the rapidly changing needs of their communities and countries.

Restoring Public Transportation

As the backbone of public transport in Luxembourg, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL) is embracing intent-based networking and automation to modernise operations and make cutting-edge passenger-focused improvements.

“Freedom of movement is something we all tend to take for granted.”

Christian Kettmann, CIO
Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL)

Despite guidelines from many different sources to follow strict social distancing, transit operators join healthcare personnel and frontline workers to provide key services, risking their own personal safety.

In a recent webinar on wireless communications for transportation, I had the pleasure of hosting a panel with some great participants. The Chief of Transit Operations for the Central Ohio Transit Authority, Matt Allison, was on the panel and he discussed how his agency is leveraging the lower traveller demands to provide mobile wifi hotspots in underserved areas of the community.

Public transportation provides key lifelines for people, particularly for underserved communities and to fill key transportation gaps during the pandemic.

Another panellist, Clint Hunter, Systems Architect for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), shared how their agency uses technology to better understand ridership levels, vehicle occupancy, and where demand is most prevalent.

As the economic ramifications continue to evolve and with a looming climate crisis that has taken a backseat of late, there is no doubt that public transport will be critical to meeting the needs of people and make communities more resilient.

The Bridge to Possible

While the “next normal” is still being defined, transportation agencies continue working the front lines. In parallel, they are trying to evolve more rapidly than government or the slow-moving industry (pun intended) typically allows.

It is apparent that our current reality and the fallout from ongoing events may very well be the true lever for digitisation. Now, there is a bright light shining on the need for secure connectivity to keep the world moving.

We believe that it’s critical to help provide secure access and safe mobility so people can get where they need to go, especially in times of change. That’s why at Cisco, we focus on you. We’re in this together, and Cisco is committed to securely connecting what’s now and what’s next to power an inclusive future for all.

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