How do public buses fit in with the future of mobility? - Automotive World

November 1, 2019

 

Transportation is being transformed by everything from artificial intelligence and advanced propulsion technologies to evolving travel patterns and innovative business models. As a result, some may be tempted to perceive buses as the large, lumbering, soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs of the public transit world.

 

By contrast, most of the industry’s global thought leaders predict the opposite: buses, which account for half of all public transit trips, will remain the backbone of a multimodal, interconnected lifestyle.

 

In cities across the US and around the world, the future of transit bus service isn’t just viable; along with rail, it is the essential connective tissue that will ensure communities are thriving without driving.

 

What do buses bring to big cities and small towns?

 

Take a stroll through Dallas, Texas, Portland, Oregon, Lawrenceville, Georgia or St. Cloud, Minnesota, and you’ll experience a uniquely American desire to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent mobility from the perspective of the customer, with modern buses playing a central role today—and for tomorrow.

 

Redesigned bus networks are providing a new foundation for mobility in today’s metro-economies, with more frequent, connecting, and efficient service. More rapid bus service—in a variety of forms including bus rapid transit (BRT)—is helping to maintain and even increase ridership by adding station amenities, improving route frequency and capacity, and in some cases providing dedicated lanes for buses to avoid traffic.

 

Some may be tempted to perceive buses as the large, lumbering, soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs of the public transit world. By contrast, most of the industry’s global thought leaders predict the opposite

 

Microtransit, an on-demand service for all, offers flexible routes and schedules as an alternative to conventional fixed-route bus service. It matches demand and supply, thereby extending transit’s efficiency and accessibility, particularly in low-density areas, during late night hours, and for special needs customers. In addition, both vehicles and stations embody cutting edge technologies. For passenger convenience, there is Wi-Fi, mobile fare payment, bike racks, and real-time signage and trip planning data that tell customers the best travel route and mode. To advance safety, there are onboard cameras and collision avoidance systems.

 

Increased use of low- or zero-emissions buses, predictive maintenance systems, and connected/automated features are helping public transit agencies to deliver greater efficiency and more benefits to the communities they serve. One example is the dramatic shift in bus fleets: in 2018, more than 21% of US transit buses were powered by electric or hybrid engines (compared to less than 2% of automobiles). A decade earlier, only about 4% of buses were hybrid or electric.

 

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