Communication of information to passengers may be via SMS on mobile phone, internet enabled smartphones or tablets - using specific public passenger transport apps - or via social media apps. Information can also be conveyed to office or home-based devices such as PCs and laptops using public transport and social media websites.
This information exchange can be combined with GPS in applications to identify the location of the user and the nearest bus stops - or for booking vehicles such as taxis. In this case the booking system can be accessed via a call centre or through apps which identify the user’s location and the nearest available taxis. In a similar way, mobile systems can book time slots to hire ‘shared use’ cars or bicycles and to link to systems which unlock the vehicle for use by the recognised hirer.
Whether the technology is Internet, mobile telecoms, GPS and booking / reservation systems – the key to successful applications is accurate datasets – of the road network, bus stops, bus schedules, taxi ranks, car club parking bays and cycle hire stands. (See Location-Based Services)
There is a large and growing community of developers who are producing mobile apps for better interrogation of public passenger transport timetables. At the same time there are standard offerings of public transport information available such as Google Transit. Agencies and operators need to understand the requirements of the various offerings in terms of data provision and maintenance - and their passenger benefits.
The number of cities across the world offering wireless and internet access to scheduled and real-time information is increasing all the time. Service providers should investigate what’s available in similar cities before launching their own offering.
Social Media (such as Facebook and Twitter) is of as much interest in urbanised parts of developing economies as in the more developed world - particularly where there is a young population. However communications networks - and therefore access to them - may be not provide good coverage or speed. Internal communication channels and the processes used by operators and agencies for conveying up-to-date information about alerts and incidents may be less strong. For cultural reasons, particularly where information is largely conveyed by word of mouth, false rumours regarding incidents on the passenger transport network may also spread quicker and with stronger repercussions than in well-developed economies It is therefore important that the operator’s processes for conveying accurate information work effectively before they adopt social media.