The journey to mobility justice in the age of data

17/1/24, 8:30 am

Making independent travel possible for all

Transportation is vital for independent living. Travelling to work, shopping for groceries, accessing healthcare and enjoying life with family and friends all require getting from A to B.

Inclusive transport aims to address the accessibility gap so that more passengers can access public transport and communities can maximise social, economic and environmental benefits. The language we use to have this critical conversation continues to evolve; from accessibility to equity to inclusion, and most recently to ‘mobility justice’ – a broad vision for access to movement and mobility regardless of physical ability or individual circumstances.

While the broad goal is clear, how will we get there? This article explores data as a critical asset in improving decision-making and integrating systems. Unlocking the value of this data demands a delicate balancing act of data democratisation and consumer privacy.


In search of mobility justice

Public transport should serve the needs of everyone, but too often, it remains inconvenient, unsafe or not fit for purpose. It's simply unviable for many, including but not limited to people living with disability, the elderly, people travelling with young children, and people who are on low incomes or are socially disadvantaged.

In a recent Inclusive Transport Webinar hosted by ITS and NEC, Stacey Ryan, Policy Manager ITS Australia, together with panel members Simon Ryley, Manager Global Smart Transport Solutions NEC, Sandra Witzel, CMO and Board Director SkedGo, and Andrew Chan, General Manager of Kastoria Bus Lines, discussed how transport authorities and operators are designing their services today to address accessibility issues and which technologies will pave the way for the future. Read how two companies are leading this transport transformation.


The multimodal approach to big data transport transformation

Big data is transforming the transportation industry with new concepts that aim for increased accessibility, efficiency and safety such as Smart City upgrades and personalised travel experiences.

NEC is leading the way with smart transport technology that amalgamates multiple data sources simultaneously to proactively optimise network operations – from ticketing and incident management to personalised, predictable travel plans that include access to and from the mode of transport to ensure end-to-end accessibility.

This multimodal data approach takes a village to work effectively, requiring the amalgamation of open data from government to private data sources. Security is a challenge, and in some cases, legislation or security requirements like anonymisation are required to access additional data to realise the potential of data for mobility justice fully.


Analysing data from multiple perspectives is critical to delivering maximum value

Australian tech company Briometrix runs assessments to test the difficulty of pavements and pathways – critical data for anyone who uses a wheelchair or other mobility support.

But the same data can also inform accessibility assessments and journey planning for other passengers, like those pushing a pram, pulling their groceries along, or dragging a suitcase to the airport.


Start the conversation earlier to elevate equity and accessibility

We have powerful data to inform the pursuit of mobility justice. Still, inclusion and equity are often not considered until new systems, policies and transport modes are already in place. And that's too late.

Sandra Witzel, Director and CMO at SkedGo says: “Autonomous vehicles and e-scooters for example are very useful transport modes, especially to cover first mile/last mile gaps. However, they haven’t been developed with inclusion in mind. Data shows women are less likely to use e-scooters as they don’t cater to their specific transport behaviour. Autonomous vehicles lack safety features for women and other more vulnerable transport users as well as accessibility considerations that go beyond providing a wheelchair ramp.”

“We must analyse the data, have these discussions early, and consider who's not in the room. Who will rely on these systems and what do they need? True understanding of accessibility requires listening to lived experience and ensuring that it informs design and engineering to create something fit for purpose from the outset.”

Actioning data insights can help reduce the constant retrofitting that has plagued transportation and design. But we can't recreate everything from scratch, so mobility justice also means making the best use of existing legacy systems. As many of these systems are going through massive changes due to decarbonisation efforts, this presents a significant opportunity to expand the scope of change and consider accessibility. Can we reduce emissions and make the transport mode more accessible?


Collaborative data usage at Kastoria Bus Lines

Kastoria Bus Lines is a leader in the use of data, integrating multiple data sources and platforms through APIs to create a centralised dashboard. With daily, weekly and monthly reporting regimes, operators can assess historical performance against KPIs and see predictive outcomes to inform sound business decisions.

Collaboration is once again crucial. Andrew Chan, General Manager of Kastoria Bus Lines, said, "Data is only a certain part of it; you need people there to help you do it. It’s a tool to enable us to get where we want to be.”


The endless possibilities of data

Simon Ryley, Manager Global Smart Transport Solutions NEC, said, “We all know we are living in the age of data. What’s important is relevant data and how that data is made available through systems.”

“The solutions we’ve got are going to change, they’re going to improve, they’re going to need to do that to increase inclusion, but it’s something that the industry needs to work on in partnership. It’s all of us working together to meet these very big goals about equity and inclusion and ensure equity of access actually improves access for everybody.”


The leader in smart transport

NEC is a global leader in smart transport technology that improves passenger experience and network performance. From ticketing to safety and real-time data, we partner with PTAs and PTOs to provide scalable solutions, optimised for performance and safety across networks of all sizes.

Getting people where they want to go is just one way NEC orchestrates a brighter world.

Plan equitable transport that encourages independent living with NEC.

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