Wellington public transport initiative gets global attention

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Snapper’s innovative approach to helping the Greater Wellington Regional Council respond to its public transport challenges during 2019 was unveiled to the world at the Transport Ticketing Global Conference 2020 (TTGC 2020) in London last month. This event is a major one in the industry, the world’s largest forum for smart ticketing and mobility, gathering over 1,200 transport professionals from 65 countries.

In its 12th year, the conference featured a packed agenda with speakers and exhibitors from around the world. One of them was our CEO, Miki Szikszai. His presentation, Building healthy relationships with data and design, was based on a case study around the issues that the Greater Wellington Regional Council experienced when introducing a new bus network design.

A new bus network design was launched in July 2018 across the Greater Wellington region. From the outset, it experienced challenges with timetabling, overcrowding, and access. An independent review concluded that the team in charge of getting the service up and running, did not have the tools or information to correctly identify the root causes of the problems.

This is not a new challenge. Transport authorities in New Zealand and around the world continue to seek fact-based evidence in order to make better decisions and optimise the performance of their public transport networks. They want to provide viable alternatives to private car use and encourage use of buses, trams and trains.  Making the wrong decisions in designing and maintaining these networks can lead to a deterioration of service quality, which can lead to people avoiding public transport and using their car instead – taking us away from the targets of reduced carbon emissions per capita and increased liveability. The stakes are high.

During the launch of the new bus network in Wellington, Snapper saw a 400% increase in requests for refunds from our cardholders. We needed to understand the role that ticketing was playing, and what could be done to improve bus operator performance and the customer experience when using the new network. This led to us developing some innovative services to better understand network performance, which could help drive better decision-making from those that could make the necessary changes.

Traditionally Real Time Information systems have been seen as the key source of data for analysis and planning. Snapper saw that augmenting this with data from ticketing, scheduling and shift planning systems could improve the customer experience by providing a basis to calculate and apply proactive refunds for incorrect fares. Over time this system was extended so it could provide full visibility of the performance of the network, helping Greater Wellington Regional Council and the bus operators see if the right bus was in the right place at the right time, and to determine how to improve performance.

The insights Miki offered during his TTGC 2020 presentation included:

  • How Snapper used evidence-based insights to improve the public transport network in Wellington at a time of extreme stress on service delivery.
  • Why accurate decision-making is critical, as making the wrong decisions when it comes to public transport leads to increased stress and anxiety for a city’s population and negative press coverage

Working closely with GWRC and the bus operators we leveraged ticketing data and real-time information – combined with advanced user experience design – to develop tools and workflows that have achieved two important outcomes:

  1. Transforming the relationship with bus operators to one that is focused on understanding network performance.
  2. Driving continuous improvement and automatically correcting fares for cardholders, providing refunds on a near real-time basis.

What it comes down to is this: if you paint the clearest picture possible of what’s happened, this will lead to improved decision-making. Lots of small, positive changes improved punctuality and reliability. But, most importantly, the relationships between the bus operators and Greater Wellington Regional Council were improved substantially, and customer trust in the network was restored.

Insights at breakfast

With our partner, Vix Technologies, Snapper also hosted an invite-only breakfast at the conference. The idea was to step transport authority executives through the Insights system we used for Greater Wellington Regional Council in greater detail, to see how it could help them and their own public transport networks. Our experience had taught us that they all want to make the continuous, small, positive changes described in the presentation, but lack the ability to actually do it.

The outcome was that several international transport authorities have expressed an interest in exploring this further. They’ll begin by sharing their data with us, so we can build a much better picture of how their networks are performing.

SmartWare now iOS supported

At the event we also unveiled the new Snapper SmartWare iOS app. SmartWare is a platform that acts as an interface to connect your ticketing system to third-party systems such as mobile apps, customer service tools and self-service kiosks. It transforms existing smartcard–based ticketing systems by adding the ability to integrate new and progressive customer facing technologies normally only available through a complete replacement of your existing ticketing system. We’re pleased to announce that SmartWare now includes support for iOS, enabling Transport Authorities and Operators to provide the benefits of instant reload and self-service to iPhone as well as Android users.

Want to understand more about the Insights tool, or our new SmartWare IOS app? Schedule a consultation with an expert here.