Israeli technology and innovation in design, ticketing, and optimization were the focus at the recent International Association of Public Transport (UITP) conference in Europe. Dozens of transport and technology companies from 81 countries participated in the conference, but Israeli startups stole the show.
Together with the Israeli companies’ success, the gap between the Israeli technologies displayed at the conference currently operating all over the world and their actual implementation in Israel cannot be ignored. The Western world long ago realized that public transport is based not merely on engines, tires, and tracks, but also, and perhaps even more, on the travel experience. This experience is achieved through smart cards, optimization of operational planning, and making information accessible to the public. As an Israeli who took part in the conference, the most ridiculous thing that I saw was that the revolution in travel experience spoken of at the conference, led by Israeli companies, is still very distant from Israel. This revolution will reach Israel only through genuine integration of technology with the travel experience. This can only be achieved when it is made a threshold condition for future tenders published for public transportation operators.
The Jerusalem light rate carried over 45 million passengers last year – an enormous challenge in one of the world’s most difficult cities in every possible aspect. We accumulated a great deal of knowledge and experience in the process of thinking how to integrate innovation and technology. We were also stunned, however, by the pioneering thinking of the global public transport giants, which are now focusing on combining advanced technological elements in order to reduce friction with passengers and using the same technological tools to provide a better user experience. The focus is more and more on information and less and less on tracks.
Public transportation services are a single complete solution for the passengers. In many European cities, it can personalize the solution for the passengers on the basis of cost, time, and comfort of the trip, especially when a number of different types of transport are involved.
In Israel, we have recently seen signs of such a revolution, when the “accumulated credit” system incorporating the public transport operators in Israel under a single payment card was launched. This is indeed a good beginning. At the same time, there is still a wide gap between the already usually pleasant travel experience on types of transport in Israel and the actual planning of a journey between leaving home and arriving at the destination. Passengers today are forced to contend with different information sources and different operations for each transport option to be selected.
In order to expedite this revolution, the approach already in use worldwide of technological service orientation should be adopted, and this should be included in public tenders as a key element in the state’s dealings with developers and public transportation operators.
There is a great deal of room for technology, but it is also necessary to adopt, teach, train, share information with, and improve the personnel with whom we work. Beyond the required criteria in tenders of kilometers and technical specifications, the concept should extend to the quality of the service and the way that the operators train and operate a service system for the passenger. This includes smart tools for obtaining speedy and accurate information, timing the trip, and connection to other means of transport.
The holistic perspective of public transport typical of Western countries does not yet fully exist in Israel, but we are on the right path. Only such a concept, which addresses public transportation as a whole – not just roads and railway cars, but as a service to the public in all of its stages – combining planning the trip, ticketing, and connectivity between different means of transportation can make people choose to consumer public transportation over private vehicles. All of this will lead the next revolution so desired by everyone in Israel, and will persuade passengers to eventually give up their private vehicles.
The writer is CEO of Connect Jerusalem (Light Train) and the Israeli representative on UITP.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on August 18, 2019
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