Hack My Ride
I have always been focussed on innovation in Public Transport myself, and it is inspiring to involve enthusiastic, more capable, young outsiders. Regardless of its form (brainstorm session, service jam or hackathon), it always leads to new ideas and insights. There were some standard problems, such as reducing waiting time at a bus stop, to be solved but also some ideas that incorporated the latest technologies, such as the application of virtual and augmented reality.
A hackathon is a meeting where computery people try to create a solution for a specific problem in small groups. In the case of Hack my Ride, the event took place from Friday 28 April 17:30h through Sunday night 19:30h. All contestants received a challange that was related to the improvement of PT in Brussels.
There were eight teams of around five people working on the different solutions. Some of the ideas were: real-time information in augmented reality, a game in which passengers of different routes could compete, discover culture via Public Transport of a system that would simplify transfer so that one would never mis the last bus, metro or tram anymore.
Most of the teams I spoke to, were having trouble shifting their idea into a realistic business plan. The Business Model Canvas is something I have been using for years, and having this as a guidance, I spoke with the teams about the ‘holes’ in their ideas and possible, creative solutions for these. One could see the struggle in the lack of PT knowledge that the teams were dealing with. For example, why would 1 minute make such a big difference in passenger numbers or revenue? How can you create alternative revenue for passengers with a disability? See here, the value of the coaches.
The counter travels with you
After rethinking the theme and solutions of this hacakthon, I came to the following, combined – easily realisable – idea; to make the counter travel with the passenger.
Prior, one would buy a paper ticket at a counter, the conductor would check it and afterwards it was thrown away. Nowadays, one charges their card, you check in and eventually you check out. It could also be like this:
“Say, Google-home, when’s the first bus to Brussels?” Google would find the time schedules and say “it will depart from Central Station in ten minutes. Do you want me to book you a ticket?” and once you agree, “Do you want to start a conversation with your carrier?”. This conversation could be via an app, such as Facebook Messenger, and this is the virtual counter. One could ask questions, make remarks and receive alternative traveltips in case of a delay. The so-called chatbot that answers would be able to log in to a flex-busstop, arrange a cab, PT-bike, take note of a lost item, handle complaints, compliments and way more. See here; transport adjusted to the individual and easy to use!
People who’d need special arrangments could have great benifits to such a virtual help from door to door. Special services, such as a wheelchair or a personal buddy, can be arranged in time.
Whenever a passenger agrees to disclose their GPS during their journey, the transportation company could use this for an actual time of arrival. An automated message could be send to the driver to wait for a minute ánd send the people in the delayed bus a message about the reason for delay. To shorten the subjective waiting periods, the passenger can be kept busy with some simple questions. This gives them the possibility to speak their mind about the situation, so this can be taken into account with the next decision. Enquête à la minute.
The result would be a positive travel experience for the customer and more efficient PT. Passengers can leave their negative thoughts at the PT company and get an immediate response.A great addition would be the extra information gathered through the individual questions of the passengers. This detailed information could result in an exact reconstruction of the journey and find the bottlenecks via Process Mining.
If one thinks this through, they would find that this idea doesn’t end at PT… There are more virtual counters that can travel alongside passengers…
In short, a great business case and a great example of Operational Excellence with a focus on the customer.
Oh, how I would love to manage a project and expand the idea.