The Road To 2034


In an exclusive preview of our 20th Anniversary special we’re proud to present our full conversation with Queensland University’s professor of transport Phil Charles, looking ahead to the path for ITS over the next 20 years

Can Intelligent Transport Systems make a difference to modal choice and if so, how?

Improving real time information availability for different modes to users can help travel choice decision-making, for example having reliable information of traffic incidents and delays before making a trip would encourage users to use alternative modes of travel.

Coordinating transport services, such as ensuring bus and rail interchange connections through integrating intelligent transport systems will ensure a quality public transport service and encourage use.

Providing intelligent payment systems, such as road user charging, including congestion charging, and integrated ticketing for public transport, will make the cost of travel more explicit and assist in modal choice.

What are your main wishes for the mobility of the future and what do you see as the biggest challenges ahead?

The biggest challenge for transport is institutional cooperation, followed by funding. If the desired transport outcomes and complementary and aligned, then the effectiveness of transport infrastructure and services in delivery mobility will be much more effective and greater value for taxpayers money could be achieved.

How are travel demands changing? How can we better serve those demands?

There are enormous changes occurring in society that will affect future travel demands:

• Population growth is continuing, although travel demand is increasing at a lesser rate than previous decades.

• Age profile is changing with an increasing proportion in the 60 year old plus category, resulting in very different travel demand patterns, in terms of destination locations, time of day and mode of travel. Also means lower proportion of working age groups paying taxes and hence reduction in funding from this source. Older travellers may be less able to drive and increase safety challenges.

• Younger age groups have very different travel patterns from previous generations – fewer licensed drivers, fewer car owners, more public transport users and different career profiles with multiple part-time jobs, ongoing education and social activities, resulting in very different travel patterns.

• Congestion is increasing, as the rate of additional infrastructure cannot keep pace with the travel demand. This means higher travel costs and reduced reliability of travel, with users looking for more efficient modes of travel.

Providing transport services that match these needs is the critical need – providing public transport that is easy to use, cost effective and flexible as well as targetted information to enable users to make informed choices.

Given that it took more than 15 years for route guidance to get from concept to mass-market (even though we all knew it would be a winner) but that Smart Phones hit us from a different sector, how do we get better at identifying and then bringing to market the technology that will really improve our transport?

The rate of change of technology applications is accelerating. Over the past 15 years the absolute control of all aspects of transport by government agencies has been diminished, particularly in recent years with the increase in smart phone ownership and the rise of social media, which together with increased expectations by users and the community has resulted in more transparency and accountability. Monitoring developments is critical, and facilitating rather than trying to control developments is needed. Recent examples of car sharing by Zipcars and ride sharing by Uber illustrate how the market will challenge traditional transport.

What will be the biggest challenges of the next two decades?

The biggest challenges over the next two decades are resourcing (funding) and ensuring value for money. This means holding political decision making accountable to the taxpayer and user and finding the most cost-effective means of delivering transport services.

Will our love affair with the car ever fade?

There is so much investment in car transport by individuals and the community in car transport we cannot afford to change this dramatically in the short term. In low density urban and rural areas, the car is the most appropriate and cost-effective means of transport and should be encouraged. It is only in the areas where demand exceeds supply impacts on the economy that we should focus on controlling private car use.

Where will funding for transportation go in the next 20 years?

The funding for transport is moving towards user pays, as a distance charge and a loading for areas where demand exceeds capacity at certain times and locations.


How has technology changed the marketplace over the last 20 years?

The rise of big data, cloud based computing or software as a service, technology based payment systems, real-time traveller information, integrated ticketing and ubiquitous smart phones has dramatically changed transport services in the past decade or more – from a transport agency perspective, from an operator perspective and from a user perspective.


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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).