Welcome to the June 2021 issue of Voices on Infrastructure, a collection of insights on reimagining transit in a post-COVID-19 world.
Before the pandemic, public transit was already on a path of change, driven by evolving technologies and consumer behaviors. A prime example is the rise of ridesharing, which added new companies to the urban transit mix and created a need for regulatory revisions.
Then the pandemic brought urban transit to a halt—literally. Transit leaders were faced with maintaining service while contending with new safety and financial challenges. On the latter, concerns centered not only on short-term operations equilibrium but also the need to rethink future investments in infrastructure and equipment, including fleets and rolling stocks.
As some parts of the world open up this summer and urban transit picks up steam, it’s crucial to consider the ways in which commuters may have also changed long term: they’re more digitally savvy, more aware of sustainability, more concerned with safety, and perhaps reverting to a preference for personal vehicles.
We hope the following three underlying themes in this issue of Voices help inspire leaders globally to reimagine urban transit:
- Safer operations: As commuters return, assurance of their personal safety is top of mind. Perspectives from leading cities offer insights on what transit leaders could incorporate into their own strategic planning and operations.
- Sustainability: Operators across the globe are pursuing a variety of approaches to improve sustainability of transit, from electrification of buses to more efficient energy consumption and entirely new modes of transport. These efforts are now being adjusted to account for lifestyle changes driven by the pandemic, such as an increase in flexible and hybrid working models that are changing commuting patterns in many cities.
- The role of technology: In urban transit’s next phase of growth, ridesharing, multimodal transport, and mobility-as-a-service will find their seats. Not to be left behind, railway infrastructure is also entering an exciting phase of renewal and innovation.
In a period of uncertainty and big transformational changes, now is the time for all transit players across the ecosystem to act: Operators can rethink their business models to balance new demand volumes and an evolving passenger mix. Investors can find opportunities in new offers in response to changing consumer behaviors. OEMs can reevaluate vehicles to offer a better customer experience, such as adding Wi-Fi connectivity. There is no single recipe for success; it strongly depends on local conditions, regulations, and the economic health of operators and the cities and countries in which they operate—and on the aspirations and vision of executives. The revolution has just begun.