Don’t break it if it ain’t broken – a centuries-old adage that sometimes does more harm than good. Especially in the case of important services like public transit. As technology evolves and new, better solutions become available to the industry, innovation is often postponed simply because the old tech is still working. Or because it costs an arm and a leg and city authorities simply do not want to admit the money could have been spent better. The result? Year after year, innovation is pushed to the side with a patchwork approach that leaves riders with a barely usable and inefficient system. While we do not claim there is a quick fix, there certainly is a better way of handling this precarious situation. A holistic approach that creates a seamless experience for both riders and agency personnel. One that does not cost hard-to-justify millions. An urban mobility platform that fits cities of all sizes and provides an end-to-end toolkit for every aspect of the public transit system. Let’s talk about intelligent transportation.
What does it take to build a transit system?
To begin with, let’s define the prerequisites for the operations of a transit agency. Apart from the obvious – vehicles, drivers and infrastructure, there are many processes that happen behind the scenes and are critical to the operations on a daily basis. Pen and paper were long used to manage schedules and routes, and before the digital era, agencies could rely on a limited number of tools and insights to optimize and improve operations. Today, technology provides a full set of solutions to every problem – from equipment to analytics.
A brief history of Modeshift
Modeshift began in 2017 as a startup in Eastern Europe, backed by Urban Impact Ventures – substantial investors in the region. It was evident to us that smart city vendors were focused on the needs of megacities and did not have a relevant approach to address the specific challenges of most communities. We were thrilled with the idea that we could fill this gap and make an impact by improving easy-to-use public transit in the “everyday-sized” cities around the world. The architecture design and build of our cloud-based solution followed. The idea attracted a strong team of experts. We had the support of Microsoft and utilizing their Azure toolset helped us achieve our goal within less than two years.
Modeshift launched the product in the U.S. market in early 2020.
To answer a very specific and very widespread pain of U.S. transit agencies, we worked to create a platform that combines all tools of the trade, and then some. We created Modeshift to be a counterpoint to the rigidity of legacy systems and to provide an agile approach to the needs of every specific city. At its core, our product is a cluster of every piece of technology a modern transit agency might need on its digital transformation journey. And every agency faces different challenges – which means we had to work to create a flexible mobility solution that could meet different needs in different scenarios.
We incorporated a CAD/AVL system, RTPI, account-based fare collection, mobile ticketing, open and closed loop payments, an analytics suite and a back office to control everything – all in a neatly packaged, out-of-the-box offering that can be purchased upfront or on a pay-as-you-go model. We do not use any proprietary hardware, but we can provide it if needed.
We also decided early on that we will aim to be MaaS-ready – and we are actively promoting this setup in cities with the prerequisites to create an integrated system. And if our sales team identifies a problem to which we do not have a solution, our engineers partner with best-in-class providers to deliver it to our customers without any additional burden. Finally, we designed Modeshift’s digital urban mobility platform with an open architecture so that it can grow as needed, adding more services as they develop.
We are free. And in being free, we free the agencies and businesses we work with to evolve and grow with us.
Our end goal? To put riders at the center of the digital mobility ecosystem and provide them with a comfortable, safe, best-fare service that fits their lifestyle. In this way, we can help transit agencies improve fare collection ratio and increase ridership. Because public transport just keeps getting better.
Tools of the trade, revisited
Modeshift is a digital urban mobility platform that incorporates a host of critical components. In this section we will dwell on each of them, beginning with the one that got us on our mobility journey…
Account-based Fare Collection
With the logical evolution of fare collection systems, account-based ticketing gained momentum in the past decade as a convenient solution that provided a ton of data for agencies. This data has served as a basis for improvements in cities worldwide, bringing us closer to our common goal of creating a truly usable public transportation system.
Modeshift’s account-based fare collection solution is hardware-agnostic – we can work with an existing legacy system or provide equipment from a trusted partner. The system supports both open and closed loop payments, as well as all fare strategies. Our AFC product offers riders a quick and convenient way to top up their accounts and validate using their preferred methods (bank cards, smart cards, smartphones, cash, etc.). On the other end, the agency gains valuable insights into user behavior: fare purchases by route/time, check-ins/outs, preferences, most-used routes and many more.
The result is a data lake that can serve as a starting point for optimizations based on real-time information. Nothing beats decisions you can back up with solid data, right?
Modern transit lives and breathes on data. And data is supplied with the help of technology. At Modeshift, we aim at simplifying all technological processes and requirements, and the CAD/AVL/RTPI solutions are no different.
Our Computer-aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location systems operate together to provide operators with real-time data delivered through the latest GPS data exchange protocols. Seamless is an understatement – the CAD module is color-coded and offers an easy-to-use dashboard that makes scheduling a piece of cake. Tracking vehicles on a live heatmap provides an at-a-glance overview of what is happening right now and prompts dispatchers to act if needed. We expect that 5G will further push our boundaries to deliver even better data.
On the other hand, the Real-time Passenger Information module takes care of riders. GTFS/GTFS RT feeds are pushed to any number of digital signage and infotainment panels, as well as the Modeshift mobile application and web portals. In this way, planning becomes a breeze and riders do not need to worry about being late or waiting at bus stops for ages.
There is no modern transit system without mobile ticketing. Modeshift’s customizable mobile ticketing solution provides a seamless experience from trip planning to validation. We incorporated all steps into a single app and created a UI that speaks the riders’ language. It is simple and it works.
The mobile ticketing application is also MaaS-ready and built to support external micromobility and demand-responsive mobility partners in cities that wish to take the next step in their transportation evolution.
Open and closed loop payments, all fare strategies
Our flexibility can be explored in depth when we talk about payments. We discovered early on that riders are different, and their needs are different. Some people prefer to use the mobile ticketing solution, others are fans of smart cards, and there will always be cash-only users. So, we need to cater to all of them. The latest integration has enabled us to offer open loop EMV payments to fill the last gap in our portfolio of secure payments. With Modeshift, riders can pay and validate however they want.
When it comes to fare policies, we also believe that we need to cater to every city’s needs. Time and distance-based fares, fare capping, single-use, weekly and monthly passes, you name it. The system can be configured to work with every type of fare and customer group in a matter of minutes.
Finally, Modeshift was built to supply transit agencies with data via a robust Analytics panel. Many agencies still have not realized the potential treasure trove they are sitting on. Account-based ticketing paired with a robust mobile ticketing solution provides them with all the answers to the needs of their riders. Searches, routes, validations – all this data can be used to drive priceless optimization efforts in creating a truly usable transit system and bringing us back to where we started – our desire to provide riders with public transit they would love to use.
In recent years, public transportation has become an inseparable part of global sustainability efforts. As pivotal as it is, transit still hasn’t even begun to play its part as people simply do not recognize it as a good alternative to their cars. We believe that with data, we can turn this trend around.
According to the World Bank, more efficient and sustainable mobility has the potential to save as much as USD 70 trillion by 2050. We would love to be part of this process.
A whole urban mobility platform in one box
All of this, and much more, is waiting for agencies who wish to uncover their digital potential. Modeshift is already a proud partner of more than 30 cities in the US and globally (see case studies here). We would love to welcome you to our family – connect with us today so we can show you the potential of our 360 digital urban mobility platform!