I was lucky enough to attend the Australian Transport Summit (ATS) in Sydney on 18 August. The fifth ATS was jointly presented by the Tourism and Transport Forum and the UITP. The organisers brought together a mix of ‘transport types’ from Australia and around the world. The international speakers included people from the USA, Singapore, France and the UK.
The key theme of the event was the future: traditionally transport has been characterized by a focus on infrastructure and vehicles and customers were an annoyance to an on-time, orderly system.
But the world has changed and the digital era has ushered in a range of choice, eg: UBER, on-demand transport and customers are demanding customised services with real time information and options. This change is captured in the term, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) or as Transdev says, ‘: the future of transport will be personalised, autonomous, connected and electric’. The head of repeated his mantra, noting that ‘customers are at the heart of everything we do…this is now in our DNA.’
Key government players are on board and one said that ‘Government will become more of an enabler (of transport options) rather than a regulator…’ and another noted that increasingly ‘Government is an agent for change.’ In a similar vein, another reflected on the emerging roles for government and the private sector, noting that ‘we want guys in beanies to build our transport apps…’
Another reflected on the experience of government being too slow to decide how to regulate new transport players saying that ‘we’ve been UBER-ed, we don’t want that to happen again.’ On the same theme, an international speaker noted that we just need to ‘let it happen…’, in the context of the appearing in various cities.
Instead of being worried about the future it was encouraging to hear a senior bureaucrat say, ‘disruption: let’s focus on what it offers to us, not what it does to us…’ as the distinction between public and private transport continues to blur.
Working together was a key theme summed up by one participant saying we must ‘promote a ‘living lab’ because none of us have all the answers; we must collaborate…’ But there is some work to be done because another said, ‘digital is a global play but we are letting productivity slip because we adopt a State-based approach…’
A final thought. We were captivated byexplaining the success of , a precursor to UBER that started a ride-sharing scheme in San Francisco in 2012 and will see over 350 million rides in calendar year 2017. We were told that by 2025, there will be over a billion rides in autonomous electric vehicles. In a sobering thought, it was noted that a green traffic jam (of electric vehicles) is just as bad as a brown one (traditional cars)!
Overall the feeling was one of great confidence as we collectively embraced the transport networks of the future and committed to build cities that work.