The bus: a new connected object!

Is taking the bus still a common instinct?

Is taking the bus still a common instinct? This universal means of public transport seems to be the slowest, yet can it still add value to an economy in the midst of digital transformation? It is estimated that a public bus travels at an average speed of barely over 10 km/h in Paris, which the everyday cyclist can overtake while whistling. In South America, as soon as it is possible to travel otherwise, inhabitants have abandoned the (often packed) bus for any other means (with the car in first place). The punctuality of transportation is the first decisive factor for those who live in the city, and despite the mass installation of lanes reserved only for them, one can’t help but notice that all around the world the reliance on the bus is declining (in London, the famous double decker buses saw their traffic fall by almost 5% in 2014/2015 alone!).

So, what solution is there for the bus industry, besides a law like Macron’s Law which aims to stimulate the development of intercity bus lines in mainland France?

What if the solution was in the cloud? Buses are actually an incredible data factory.  That’s at least what the bus company Ruter in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, strongly thinks and professes. By investing heavily in a new technological infrastructure, the bus company hopes to gather all available data relating to the movement of inhabitants in the capital. It then offers to ‘sell’ them to the city in order to better understand the population’s habits and behaviour.

“This means moving away from closed systems which are dependent on a supplier where data is kept internally, within the data of the whole network of public transport. All the environmental sensors of buses, such as traffic speed, light, noise, pollution, etc. […] will be available to the public as a basic principle,” announced Bernt Reitan Jenssen, the CEO of Ruter, to the press.

Yet the city issued an invitation for proposals, with the company Ruter planning to differentiate itself from its competitors thanks to its ability to provide data which can be used for the people. This is a way of winning over a market that should inspire other industries as the data gathered is not just GPS coordinates but a tool which allows the creation of new services for the inhabitants that go well beyond matters of traffic or environment.

“We’re talking about a new triangle, between the clients, suppliers, and other users, to create a new coexistence based on data sharing. That’s what we call the ‘bus as a service’,” added the technology loving CEO.

Other development factors explain the recent drop in public transport use, such as the takeoff of hybrid bikes, the popularity of cycling, the increasing distance of the city centre, buses becoming too expensive and in the end too slow, which all bear the brunt of this change. Despite that, it is in the interest of cities to maintain the existence and use of this transport. One can hope that the Norwegian model, based on harnessing data, will return hope to this easy to use means of transport.

 

To read also : Transport data accessibility: the law for 2021