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Improving the Efficiency of Public Transportation Report

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Updated: Mar 7th, 2022

Introduction

Population growth is inevitable because there has been an increase in birth rate and reduction in number of deaths in the UK in recent years (BBC, 2008). Aside from that, the increase in population can also be attributable to migration, and over the years more and more people from abroad are coming to work and stay in the UK (BBC, 2008). There are many implications to a continuous increase in population. When it comes to the transportation sector the increase in the number of people travelling to work, school, and attending to their businesses will surely mean congestion and pollution. It is imperative to find ways to reduce congestion and pollution. In the 21st century one of the solutions is to integrate computer systems to improve the efficiency of public transportation. This model can be seen at work at National Express Coventry where the public transport system is being managed by the help of a computer system that improves scheduling and tracking of 160 buses. The use of computer systems at National Express does not only improve efficiency but it also helps reduce pollution by reducing the number of cars on the streets.

In the 21st century words like sustainability, climate change, carbon emission and carbon footprint are constantly in the headlines, in small-group discussions, in corporate board meetings, in schools and practically in every location where intelligent people as well as concerned citizens come to meet and voice out their concerns about the condition of the environment in the UK in particular and the whole planet in general. There seems to be a consensus that humans could not continue living as if this world is indestructible, it is imperative that this present generation must start to become better stewards of this planet so that the next generation will find a world that is not damaged beyond repair.

In the UK, one of the major concerns is the transportation sector, specifically the presence of so many vehicles in the streets. There is no need to elaborate why people will continue to purchase cars and yet there must be a way to reduce the number of vehicles traveling through major thoroughfares, especially in the cities. If the number of people using cars can be reduced, then congestion and pollution can be brought down to acceptable levels. This is easier said than done but someone must start somewhere. The best place to start is to focus on the impact of car pollution in the UK.

Pollution from Cars

According to one report, there are 33 million vehicles in the UK and of that number 27 million are cars (UK Environmental Protection, 2009). One can easily understand the number of exhaust fumes from twenty-seven million tailpipes. This is the major reason why UK residents are seeing the significant drop in air quality, as well as other negative consequences of millions of vehicles traveling on a daily basis and this, includes congestion, noise disturbance and climate change (UK Environmental Protection, 2009). One way to solve this problem is to encourage UK residents to switch to public transportation.

There are those who contend that in order to persuade people to make a radical commitment to public transportation – instead of being forced to use their ever-reliable cars – is to introduce cutting-edge technology into public transportation. The main goal is to make public transportation attractive to commuters. There are three major areas that require focus and improvements and these are:

  1. convenience;
  2. time management;
  3. safety;
  4. savings.

If public transportation companies can provide these things to commuters then there is no reason why they will not make the switch knowing that it is not only advantageous for them to make the change but by doing so they are also helping the environment.

Customers Wanted

It has to be clarified that the use of computer systems does not reduce carbon emissions in buses or coaches. The government working hand-in-hand with public transportation companies must attract more customers and this is only possible if they can assure convenience for the users. Computer systems must be used to manage and track down buses or coaches in order to ensure that they arrive on time. Businesspeople, employees and students are on a tight schedule and they could not afford to be late for work or for school.

Bus companies must also assure the public that their safety is their main concern (Media Centre, 2008). The appeal of cars and having private transportation is that those who have their own cars can travel safely from home to work. Upon arrival they park in their office basement than at night they go straight from work to their garage, it is almost impossible for a mugging to occur. The same level of safety must be perceived by commuters if they will be persuaded to make changes – to trade their cars for buses.

Bus companies must also convince commuters that it is more economical to use their transportation network. There is no sense in taking the bus if the only thing that bus operators can promise is convenience and safety. Their target market is already experiencing the same level of convenience and safety driving to and from work, thus, bus companies must make a convincing argument in this regard. Although, it does not require a rocket scientist to understand that public transportation is much cheaper than maintaining a car as well as paying for the high cost of fuel. Still, bus companies must continue to strive to lower the cost for commuters.

Leveraging Technology

The four goals of convenience, safety, efficient time management, and savings can be easily achieved if bus companies will learn to leverage existing technologies and at the same time continue to make investments in the use of computer systems to improve their operations. In the UK, it is the National Express Group, the leading transport provider that hopes to increase revenue while helping the environment. According to National Express, they are heavily invested in technology to improve public transportation in the UK and they are determined to convince commuters to make that transition from cars to public transportation.

One way to make public transportation more convenient, more economical, and less time-consuming is the introduction of an electronic payment system called the Oyster Card, a form of pre-paid electronic ticketing. This is also one example of how a computer system can be leveraged to improve the travel experience of UK residents and visitors. The said card uses Radio Frequency Identification or RFID. This technology allows an electronic reader to debit from the card the appropriate fare (milesfaster, 2009). This means that there is no need for long queues to the one selling tickets. There is no need to prepare for exact change and carry cash to pay for their fare. Since paper tickets are no longer required, this is another way to help the environment as less paper is needed to maintain the system.

Travel time is reduced significantly because there is now a faster way to usher in passengers. It takes less than a second to move the Oyster Card to the reader, a mere 10 centimeters distance is needed for the RFID to communicate with the computer. Thus, passengers can move in and out with very little effort. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for the Oyster Card; the most important feature is that the usage of the card offers lower fares. This partially solves the problem of achieving lower costs when it comes to using the public transportation network (Bell, 2002). Moreover, the RFID-powered card can be loaded with various payment options. It can be reloaded in tube stations, in shops with the Oyster logo, online, and by phone (milesfaster, 2009). There is also the auto-top-up wherein the card can be automatically reloaded if the stored credit is below a certain amount (milesfaster, 2009). This is another way of saving not only money but time making it more convenient and economical to use the Oyster Card.

It has been said that cars promise freedom of movement but there are those who contend that this is merely an illusion because congestion and high-volume traffic can make travel time painfully slow (National Express Report, 2008). The Oyster Card on the other hand allows commuters true freedom because it can be used for buses, trams, Tube, DLR, and London Overground. This means that the possession of a single card can allow unhindered movement in London and in many parts of the UK where congestion and pollution is major problem.

Another example of how a computer system can be used to improve transportation is the use of satellite tracking technology. This new technology was used by a leading bus company called Travel Coventry (National Express Media Centre, 2008). Travel Coventry fitted its entire fleet with state-of-the-art Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) equipment (National Express Media Centre, 2008). This tracking device will allow the company to monitor the whereabouts of their buses. Thus, they know in advance if a bus will be late or running ahead of schedule. They can make adjustments based on these data and thus they can reduce the waiting time at bus stops.

The AVL was complemented with another technology and this time it was the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority that installed electronic information screens in many bus shelters (National Express Media Centre, 2008). In conjunction with the satellite technology of Travel Coventry, the information screens will show passengers the number of minutes it will take for the next bus to arrive at the bus shelter. This will reduce anxiety and frustration on the part of the passenger and make them feel that they are in control of the situation. As mentioned earlier there is a good reason why many prefer their cars and one major reason is control. They have to have control of their schedule. But the use of computer technology will give them the assurance that they can plan ahead and make adjustments if there is a slight delay in the schedule.

Pollution from Cigarette Smoking

While it is important to reduce the number of cars in major thoroughfares, especially in busy city streets in the hopes of reducing pollution from exhaust fumes, there is another way to protect the environment using technology provided by the public transport companies. It is a well-known fact that there are passengers who smoke inside buses. Smoke coming from cigarettes is not only a contributor to environmental degradation, it can also harm the health of non-smoking passengers breathing in second-hand smoke (Smokefree, 2007). Although smoking in enclosed public spaces is illegal since 2007, there are still those who would try to get away with smoking inside buses (Ygoy, 2008). As a result, the Coventry Environmental Health Officers and the National Express Coventry are joining forces to significantly reduce the number of smokers in buses. They developed a scheme wherein passengers can inform authorities via text.

Into the Future

The National Express Group is developing new strategies which they summed up in a report entitled More is Less their dream of an integrated public transportation system. National Express is hoping that by 2020 more people will choose to use public transportation. This means that their services must be expanded to provide access for all. Aside from that, the company is going to develop new technologies that will make travel safer, fasters, and more convenient for the passengers. They are going to provide services wherein it would be easier to get e-tickets and this time they will use mobile phones (Asakura & Iryo, 2005). The passenger will receive information on his or her mobile phone regarding the schedule of the arrival of buses and trains. Aside from that National Express will invest in high-tech CCTV that will ensure passenger safety. Furthermore, National Express will install wi-fi in their buses so that passengers can work while commuting to and from work.

The end result is an integrated computer system that handles the marketing end of the operation on one hand and then the business side of the operation on the other. In this way, passengers can be encouraged to consider public transportation. First, it would be a convenient alternative to their cars. In the near future, they will realize that congestion can reduce their quality of life. The time wasted driving and the stress incurred from wasting so much energy on the streets can be a wake-up call for many to consider public transportation. The promise of a safe and reliable service will make it easier for them to make the switch.

On the other hand, bus companies and government agencies can make a more convincing sales pitch if they will be able to demonstrate that the reduction of car use in the UK can help improve air quality. This can be a major incentive for many. Then they can make a better argument by also demonstrating that commuters can save a lot of money. Instead of spending their hard-earned money on car maintenance and costly fuel costs they can choose to save it or invest it in a high yield investment so that they have better use for their funds.

In order to achieve these goals National Express and government agencies responsible for creating positive changes in the public transportation sector must come to realize that there are political, legal and financial hurdles that they must overcome. For instance, in National Express’s dream of building an integrated system, there is a need to expand and there are places that will be affected by this expansion. The residents can resort to legal action preventing the expansion of railways for instance or residents can also complain if another lane is added to an existing highway.

When it comes to the financial aspect there are places where they cannot afford the use of sophisticated computer systems. There are also those who will oppose the use of technology because it requires significant investments. If this will happen then National Express and those who are responsible for creating a more environmentally friendly public transportation system will have to explain that in the long run, these investments will yield positive gains (Baum & Pfau, 1991). It will benefit the environment and it will provide an alternative mode of travel that is more relaxing and less expensive.

Conclusion

Computer systems will not directly help in protecting the environment. But the efficient use of new technology in the public transportation sector will allow companies like National Express and various government agencies to encourage more commuters to switch from using cars to buses, trains, trams, etc. In this way, the number of cars plying major thoroughfares can be reduced significantly and improve air quality. Computer systems can be used to improve the efficiency of public transportation to a level that will be beneficial to commuters.

While there are many improvements to UK’s public transportation networks there is much work that needs to be done to increase the number of people who will leave their cars behind in exchange for public transportation (Kurauchi & Sumalee, 2002). The good news is that a company like National Express has a vision for the future of an integrated system where the use of technology can make life more pleasant for everybody.

References

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Herbert Baum and Gerald Pfau (1991). Employment Effects of Investments in Urban Transport.The Journal of advance transportation, Vol. 25, No.1. Web.

Media Centre (2008) Bus passengers urged to have a safe and silent night this Christmas. Web.

Media Centre (2008) National Express Coventry launches clampdown on smokers. Web.

Media Centre (2008) Satellite technology to reduce waiting time at city bus stops. Web.

Michael G H Bell (2002). Public Transportation (Il). Enhanced bus operations: The Curitiba model and its applicability to China. The Journal of advance transportation Vol. 35, No3, special Issue. Web.

Milesfaster (2009). .

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National Express (n.d) More is less. A simple vision for an integrated transport system. Web.

Smokefree(2007). A healthier England 2007. Web.

Yasuo Asakura and Takamasa Iryo (2005). Tracking Individual Travel Behaviour Using Mobile.

Phones Without Information From Base Stations. The Journal of advance transportation Vol. 39, No1. Web.

Ygoy (2008) How smoking affects the environment. Web.

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