Fostering urban mobility
How do you encourage people to use public transport? And how do you widen social engagement? Digitalisation holds the key.
Persuading people to leave their cars at home and take public transport instead is a priority for public transit authorities. In parallel with this, there is a need to boost social inclusion and to ensure that public transport is accessible to everyone. How can these goals be achieved?
Thales’ approach is to provide digital solutions that enhance the passenger experience at every stage of the journey. Our signalling, supervision and ticketing solutions are at the heart of this. Building on these, we are using technologies including data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver completely new layers of functionality.
Below, we show how these technologies are helping to solve specific pain points and create new possibilities for passengers, with easy and attractive journeys for everyone – not only using public transport, but also soft modes such as e-scooters and bicycles.
Smart, stress-free ticketing
How much will my ticket cost? This is a key question for every traveller. Public transport fare structures can be complicated and uncertainty about the price of tickets can be a blocker – particularly for people on low incomes.
Innovative ticketing products can make all the difference. ‘Best fare’ is one example. With this model, travellers can be confident they will always get the best price – no matter how complex their journey. “Having a ‘best fare’ promise can be a strong selling point for transit authorities,” says Thomas Baselius, Head of Business Development Engineering, Thales Revenue Collection Systems.
Traditionally, implementing new ticketing products was a long and complex process. This problem is solved by TRANSCITY™, Thales’ back office solution for fare collection. As well as processing ticketing transactions, TRANSCITY™ makes it easy to create new ticketing products. It is also very quick: once fare rules are agreed, they can be implemented – system wide – in as little as 24 hours.
TRANSCITY™ also makes it easy to manage incentives – including passenger loyalty schemes, which help to encourage the uptake of account-based ticketing. “Our goal is to make it easy for public transport operators to offer attractive prices, as well as to offer optimum convenience and the best user experience for travellers,” Thomas Baselius says.
Flawless metro journeys
Delayed and cancelled trains have a real impact on people’s lives. Will I be late for work? Am I going to miss the start of the show? Everybody has experienced moments like these.
Modern signalling dramatically improves the reliability of urban rail systems. Replacing traditional signalling with Thales’ SelTrac™ CBTC (communications-based train control) makes it possible to run more trains on existing lines – and to do so extremely reliably, thanks to computer-controlled driving that ensures perfect performance.
New features in SelTrac™ CBTC include autonomous sensing systems that can be used to monitor the trackside – and even ride quality – easing maintenance and providing passengers with a smoother journey.
“SelTrac™ CBTC is a constantly evolving solution,” says Arnaud Besse, Marketing and Communications Director, Urban Rail Signalling, Thales. “Integration of autonomous capabilities will deliver further enhancements in terms of performance and reliability.”
Nobody likes overcrowding on trains and platforms. To ease the pressure, Thales has developed a solution called Passenger Density and Guidance. This uses video analytics to monitor congestion in real time and to provide travellers with information that helps them to steer clear of crowds – both on trains and platforms.
As well as contributing to passenger comfort, this solution has the added benefit of reducing dwell times at stations, boosting punctuality and minimising the risk of slips and trips at the platform-train interface (PTI). A further benefit is the detection of remaining passengers inside trains at terminal stations.
Passenger Density and Guidance is one of a number of innovative solutions enabled by Thales’Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics. “A key point about Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics is that it uses video data from existing cameras, so no additional hardware investment is required,” says Gaïane Vicente, Strategy & Marketing Director, ICS, Thales.
Improving the rush hour experience
Commuting in the rush hour can be a real struggle. Could it be made easier? For operators, the challenge is getting the right number of trains to the right places at the right times. This is not an easy task. And it has become a lot more difficult in the post-pandemic period because travel patterns are less predictable.
One solution being developed by Thales is adaptive train scheduling. “This uses real-time passenger density data from stations and trains to measure passenger demand – and then to predict how it will evolve,” says Gaiane Vicente. “This makes it possible to adapt the speed and frequency of trains to match the demand. All of this is achieved automatically.”
Thales’ approach combines video analytics from Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics with data from ticketing systems to drive dynamic train scheduling via the Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) system. A key point about this approach is that it taps into data that already exists – there is no need for additional hardware or sensors.
How can physical access to public transport be made easier? In most cities, passengers taking the metro, bus or tram need to ‘tap in’ using physical fare media – smartcards, bank cards or phones. This can be difficult if you are carrying bags. And if you are a wheelchair user, or pushing a stroller, tapping in can be a real obstacle.
‘Hands-free’ ticketing eliminates this problem. The solution uses smartphone radio communications, so there is no need to physically tap in – everything is done over the air, with no need to touch the phone.
“The idea is to reduce the actions needed by the traveller,” explains Thomas Baselius. “If you board a bus, for example, the smartphone recognises the radio beacon within the vehicle. It also recognises when you get off.” The entire process is managed automatically and supported by an app, so passengers can easily check their journeys.
From trams and buses to e-scooters and ride sharing, urban travellers now have more options than ever when it comes to planning their perfect door-to-door journey. But all of that choice can be confusing. Travellers need an easy way to plan and pay for full journeys – with all modes of transport included.
One of the most effective ways for transit authorities to achieve this goal is to set up or participate in a MaaS (Mobility as a Service) ecosystem – with a single mobile app for travellers.
Thales’ TRANSCITY™ back office platform is a vital enabler for MaaS schemes because it makes it possible to integrate any operator and any mode of transport – including soft modes, such as e-scooters and bicycles.
“The platform provides functionality that allows you to redistribute revenue fairly from whatever means of payment the traveller uses,” Baselius says. “It provides full accountability of what was used, how much was paid, and your portion of the revenue.” The beauty of TRANSCITY™ is that it allows transit authorities to start small and scale up their MaaS projects rapidly to accommodate new micromobility providers.
Most journeys on public transport are incident-free. But when things do go wrong, the ability to react and recover is vital. “Metro operators already do this on a day-to-day basis,” says Gaiane Vicente. “But digital technology makes it much easier to get the full picture of the situation and to respond to incidents effectively.”
Swift resolution of incidents is facilitated by TransVerse™, Thales’ third-generation digital platform for Operation Control Centres (OCCs). This provides monitoring and control of all critical systems, from fixed assets – such as lifts and escalators – to train supervision, power, security and passenger information systems.
The OCC based on TransVerse™ provides crisis management tools, including decision procedure lists that allow operators to tackle disruption and emergencies. Effective intervention means that problems can be resolved rapidly, before passengers even realise anything has gone wrong – all thanks to the orchestration of multiple subsystems made possible by TransVerse™.
New functionality is being added all the time. Looking ahead, synchronisation of different data inputs – such as video analytics and signalling – paves the way for new value-added services, including targeted passenger information. Like all Thales’ solutions, TransVerse™ is Cybersecured by Design. This means that cybersecurity is built in to the solution from the design stage, with cyber maintenance services throughout the lifetime of the system.
Peace of mind for passengers
How safe do you feel on trains and buses? Concerns about personal security can sometimes deter people from travelling by public transport. One way transit authorities have sought to improve passenger safety is by deploying extensive CCTV networks.
Cameras act both as a deterrent and as a means of detection. But the scale of CCTV deployments is an increasing challenge. A large transport network may have upwards of 10,000 cameras. From a practical perspective, it is not possible to monitor all of them. This means that operators are unlikely to spot a problem until it is too late.
Thales’ video analytics solution, Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics, solves this problem. Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics' algorithms are capable of sifting through thousands of video feeds to detect acts of aggression – in real time – with automatic alerts for OCC operators. The technology behind Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics also makes it possible to detect unauthorised access (for example, tunnel intrusions) and to identify unattended or abandoned bags and packages on trains and platforms.
Green and sustainable transport
More and more of us want to make a positive contribution to the environment. Using public transport instead of cars is one way of achieving this. But could the environmental performance of public transport be further improved?
Energy efficiency is an increasing area of focus, particularly for metro operators. OCC supervision holds the key to delivering energy savings. Options include staggering train departures to cap consumption peaks, optimising train speed depending on traffic conditions, and synchronising train arrivals and departures at stations to maximise regenerative braking opportunities.
In addition, new data-driven tools make it possible to reduce power consumption in stations. “Using Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics, we can determine how many people are on platforms and approaching trains. You can then adapt lighting levels and adjust the air conditioning depending on how crowded the station is,” says Vicente.
Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics is a perfect example of the way Thales is using advanced digital technologies to create links between previously isolated systems to deliver new kinds of value – from easier journeys to energy savings. All of this is playing a pivotal role in fostering urban mobility, reducing costs and building a future we can all trust.