Audrey Denis of Cubic Transportation Systems discusses how transport agencies can effectively model, predict and support demand 

By the middle of this century, researchers predict ten billion people will be living in urban areas, with a minimum of 14 new megacities (ten million plus inhabitants) created. Many of these will face multiple challenges, including an exponential rise in demand for, and consequent pressure on, local transport services. This will have a knock-on effect on existing infrastructure which is close to capacity, not least when it comes to urban transportation. However, while this is making demand modelling and management a key priority, numerous challenges exist.   

Facing the challenges of megacity transport 

Urban transportation systems are difficult to model as they lack integration, involving various public and private operators, while struggling to provide intermodal

Audrey Denis

solutions. This issue stems from the decentralized nature of responsibilities across multiple jurisdictions. Toll roads, transportation networks, and parking operations, among other components, are seldom managed by a unified agency. Each entity operates with individual goals driven by policy and financial considerations, responding to different and unrelated leadership. 

Compounding this problem is the historical emphasis on the front end in the development of highway, transportation, and tolling technology. The primary focus has consistently been on aspects such as detection, toll tags, transportation tokens, or payment methods. However, focusing too much on these front-end development outcomes results in hardcoded inflexible legacy back-office systems – which makes changes such as price increases or new business rules both expensive and time-consuming to implement.  

These factors significantly limit managers’ ability to optimize the travel experience for both citizens and visitors while efficiently balancing the demand on the infrastructure network across various modes. The challenge is that upgrades need to happen across systems in the complex multimodal environment, creating duplication of effort.  

The benefits of transport modelling technology  

Therefore, a new vision is required to ensure city management and growing transport demand is met. This unified vision requires an integrated approach to supply (transport operations) and demand (customer experience), with feedback mechanisms between them to help keep people moving and make sure the system is as efficient as possible.  

Firstly, agencies need a flexible, scalable back office that can accommodate any payment type and from which operators can use that information for operations and planning. This modern IT solution not only creates seamless connection to widely used third-party applications such as Trainline and Uber but will also result in a flexible yet highly secure solution that represents the future of transportation payment and enables accurate real-time demand modelling. 

This innovative approach facilitates the integration of payments and information management across various operators or agencies within a city, region, or state. The system is designed to support all modes of transportation, empowering managers to plan and optimize the entire travel experience and infrastructure usage across a comprehensive mobility network, irrespective of the mode of transportation. 

Currently, there’s an increased prevalence of shared services, including paid options like car share, rideshare, and bike share, each utilizing different payment mechanisms. Creating interoperability between different modes and accounts ensures payment is simple for users – allowing them to seamlessly connect the dots of all their transportation system uses. Operators are able to share data from a larger customer database for communication and marketing purposes, while communicating rewards and nudges for riders.   

A pathway to the future 

Bangkok City aerial view, Aerial view from above of skyscraper and traffic in Bangkok, Thailand.

Over the last few years, the transport landscape has changed. Consumers now expect a more seamless, connected travel experience, forcing operators to think about their long-term futures. With an increased amount of jurisdictions and shared services, creating a unified transport experience has become the name of the game. Managing demand requires flexible transport systems that support seamless rider experience and real-time data for operations and planning, while linking supply and demand for active management of the transportation network.  

To provide ongoing customer support through mobile self-services, these flexible solutions allow users to manage fare purchases, review balances, transactions, and fare charges, as well as receive notifications about account status and usage. They also assist travelers in planning journeys by receiving alerts about real-time travel conditions – such as weather warnings or alternate routes in the case of disruptions. These solutions can influence user behavior through real-time information and incentives, contributing to the balanced use of transportation systems citywide. For example, encouraging users to travel less busy but potentially longer routes for a discounted fare. 

Taken together, these services will enable civic authorities and transport agencies to effectively model, predict and support demand as it ebbs and flows across multiple modes. With urban growth seemingly unstoppable, cities must act today to put in place the joined-up technologies we need to ensure they can provide the balanced, cost-effective, clean and fast transportation solutions of the future.   

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.  

Audrey Denis is Senior Strategy Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems. Since 1951, transportation agencies and municipal partners worldwide have relied on Cubic Transportation Systems to deploy transportation technologies that enhance the quality of life for their citizens. Cubic works with agencies to make public transportation the most attractive option for people; where roads are essential, its intelligent transportation solutions keep people safe and reduce congestion.