Better Phone Networks Will Improve Travel

Source: BACKPACKER Trade News

Swiping a smartphone to pay for a train ticket and enjoying uninterrupted internet access will improve the way people commute on public transport, says the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF).

The lobby group has identified several ways of making commuting more productive and delivering a service more suited to commuters’ needs.

They include eliminating mobile network black spots on public transport and rolling out wi-fi hotspots on outer-suburban and intercity public transport services.

An electronic ticketing account via a smartphone app would allow commuters to plan their trip online and pay for their travel through a “tap and go” system, the TTF says in a paper launched on Tuesday.

“Many smartphones are now being manufactured with embedded near-field communication chips,” the report says.

“As this feature becomes increasingly standardised, phones will be used for cashless transactions including public transport fares with apps installed to manage customers’ accounts.”

To make journeys more efficient, the paper suggests developing more public transport-related smartphone apps and providing information via Google Transit to give real-time information about delays and cancellations.

Business and government should work together to place on-street displays of real-time transport information in areas of high passenger demand, it says.

TTF chief executive John Lee said Australia has the world’s second highest usage of smartphones per capita and there was a need for better networks.

“The hundreds of thousands of commuters who pass through the city circle in Sydney or Melbourne’s city loop each day would benefit from a co-operative effort between state governments and mobile phone providers to ensure uninterrupted coverage across the network,” he said.

“We welcome the news that is now on the agenda in Sydney.”

Lee said real-time information is also crucial to improving the passenger experience.

“The report calls for transport authorities to facilitate the development of innovative apps that respond to consumer needs by giving third parties free or at-cost access to timetable and real-time data,” he said.

The report said getting private software companies to develop public transport apps would ensure taxpayer money is saved.

The private sector is also more likely to produce innovative and user-friendly apps faster than the public sector.

Lee said social media, especially Twitter, offered another immediate channel to communicate directly with customers about delays, but these platforms also required continuous mobile coverage on public transport networks to be effective.