DRT is unlike e-hailing as it isn’t a private door-to-door service but a public transit service that affordably serves a larger pool of commuters. At the same time, it has advanced software intelligence that optimises every commuter’s route options and pick-up and destination points, while providing commuters with accurate estimated time of arrival (ETA).
An urban area such as Klang Valley can be served by having many DRT service zones, each serving as first-mile/last-mile zones connecting commuters in a cluster of neighbourhoods nearest to LRT/MRT/bus stations. DRT is a cost-effective first and last-mile solution that will increase ridership of the middle-mile public transit lines.
To address the holistic travel management challenge, our transportation systems need to be fully digitised and connected to the Internet. There are some companies that have built their own “journey planning” apps, but functions more as a vehicle tracker instead. These apps tell you where to wait for the bus/train and when it is expected to arrive. It however does not help you plan your journey end-to-end, door-to-door.
A journey planning app is connected to cloud services with the computational intelligence to provide comprehensive journey planning capabilities, ability to connect multiple modes of transportation together, and offers seamless payment methods and ticketing options.
A true journey planner places the travel needs of the commuter in the centre of his/her experience, rather than in the vehicle they use. It is also service provider agnostic as much as possible and provides as many options as reasonably and accurately as possible for the commuter’s selection.
It can comprise DRT services, buses, trains, electric scooters, taxis, and even e-hailing rides – from competing companies. Having these different modes of transport on a single platform will encourage commuters to complete their journeys using multimodal public transportation and promote MaaS.
Completing the puzzle is the use of account-based ticketing (ABT) systems for public transit. Ticketing systems today aren’t intelligent enough to assign different profiles for different commuter types. For example, a prepaid, flat-rate, unlimited ride ticket only benefits frequent users as opposed to infrequent users, who still have to pay the same rate but cannot get their full money’s worth.
ABT can address such challenges and change usage behaviour because its fare structure isn’t tied to a particular ticket but rather to an electronic wallet (e-wallet) account a commuter has. Commuters using ABT do not have to pre-pay upfront everytime he/she travels but their accounts are instead recorded and deducted, as and when they are used.
This allows for structured profiles to be designed for a wide-variety of commuters. A senior citizen can be incentivised to ride a train by being charged half price all the time; a daily office commuter can get 30% off his/her 11th trip onwards after commuting 10 trips; or a “park and ride” user could be given 20% everytime he/she use a train or bus service – all this without having to pre-pay upfront.
In this way, commuters have a real compelling cost-benefit reason to change their travel behaviour.
We need long-term solutions that can effectively tackle the root of these problems – solutions that involve a multi-stakeholder approach that brings together the government, transport operators, technology providers, and the public for the greater good.
We’ve outlined some of the new technologies today – DRT, multimodal journey planner and ABT – that can be applied to today’s transportation challenges. We believe that if we can begin to address these challenges, commuters will be incentivised towards utilising public transportation.
Still, the urban transport policy direction should be geared to be multimodal-centric – to reward commuters and transport operators that utilise a combination of private and public transit in order to reduce vehicles on the road while increasing overall public transport modal share.
Lastly, the total cost of owning a private vehicle requires much-needed advocacy and exposure in order to encourage a habitual shift towards multimodal public transportation. The opportunity cost of sitting in traffic and having fuel burnt; the wear and tear a car experiences in traffic; and the high cost of parking and toll payments are all negative factors that can’t be good in the long run.
As we celebrate Merdeka and Malaysia Day, we need to move forward from the challenges we face today in the transportation sector. We can and we should use technology and data to jumpstart the reformation needed for the sustainability of our cities.