The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) held its 2013 fall conference this week in Calgary. We were invited to talk to the hundreds of delegates in attendance about the role of transit in a new mobility landscape. We were pleased to hear Michael Roschlau, CUTA’s President and CEO, talk about the changing mobility (shared multi-modal autonomous) and the opportunities that are presented to transit.
Transit is one of the rare visionary industries in this country that are laying the groundwork required to seize the opportunities that the new mobility (accompanied by autonomous vehicle technology and connectivity) landscape will present. In fact, when asked who believes that autonomous vehicle technology will be on our roads in the foreseeable future, over 3/4 of the transit delegates in our well-attended session raised their hands. Metrolinx and TransLink have already demonstrated interest in the new mobility landscape and are actively considering the opportunities presented to them.
Indeed, some of the changes in mobility are evident today. Calgary is a prime example of shared mobility with Car2Go’s blue and white vehicles prominent throughout the downtown area. We highlighted the fact that there are cur rent ly over 150,000 car share members in Canada. That number is expected to mushroom by 2020. We provided examples of visionary transit properties around the world that are combining their offering with car sharing and other forms of mobility, embracing the increasingly multi-modal nature of metropolitan transport.
Our transit properties will have important decisions to make regarding the role they will want to play in the future mobility. They can either embrace the multi -modal nature of transport and position themselves to occupy a larger space (either directly or in collaboration with solid partners) or they can relegate themselves to being mass transit providers of train/metro/subway/services. If they decide the latter or if they wait too long to occupy the multi-modal space, then other providers will step in to do so.
However, as exciting as it is, the road ahead can be bumpy for those who do not plan the trip as well as they should. Union issues, political expediency, resistance to change are but a few of the issues that will need to be addressed before a transit property develops a successful plan that will allow the organization to take full advantage of the opportunities available in this space.
Given the timelines for significant change that transit properties must work with (including life of vehicles and facilities), it is imperative that planning begin sooner rather than later. At the conference, we were asked what would be required to move forward in the new mobility space. Our response: vision, conviction and appropriate planning.
In this new landscape, transit has the potential to expand its offering and provide sustainable mobility to users, all while being financially self-sufficient. We therefore encourage Canada’s transit properties to seize the opportunity being presented to them.
Catherine Kargas, MBA, ECBS
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