New technologies for all industries are constantly being developed, so it’s always exciting to look at what’s coming up the pipeline next. The transit industry is no exception, and 2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for both transit companies and passengers alike. Ecolane continually explores emerging trends and opportunities that are on the horizon, because new transportation software and cutting-edge technologies are beneficial for everyone; from transit owners and operators to riders and companies.

1. Customers are going to start looking for customizable, shareable transportation solutions rather than a personal one-vehicle-suits-all approach, and the software that will fuel this change is forthcoming.

According to a new McKinsey Global Institute report, personal vehicles and ownership will see a decline in the coming years, especially in densely populated urban and suburban areas. As this occurs, there will be a shift toward shared mobility, in the form of car sharing, e-hailing, and public transit. In response, companies like Ford are already working on the software platforms that these services will run off of, including apps and navigation software, while other tech companies are working to create comprehensive, location-specific apps that can be used to track and plan ridesharing and transit options.

2. There will be an increased interest in software that can be integrated with autonomous vehicles. 

Although self-driving cars are still in the initial testing stages, it’s not implausible to think that self-driving trains, buses, and streetcars aren’t far off. As such, the large automotive and tech companies are already looking at developing transportation software that can be partnered with, and integrated into, these self-driving vehicles. A large part of that software involves marketing to passengers who have the freedom to give their undivided attention to ads and infotainment. While it may still be some time before the world sees futuristic highways populated with nothing but automated vehicles, this nascent software will still surely make its way into existing transit infrastructures.  

3. As more and more riders rely on Smartphones and the Internet for information and timely results, more apps will appear that allow transit users access to real-time information about routes, scheduling, maps, and updates, plus live customer service capabilities.  

Today, transit riders are demanding accountability about delays and transit hiccups, and they want to be informed about schedule changes and other problems as they occur. Not only do real-time apps allow riders to plan alternative transportation or arrange for altered arrival times, they also make customer service more efficient and impactful, and more transit companies are going to start developing this type of transportation software for the users of their local systems.

4. There will be an increase in rapid transit in large urban areas, and this will come in the form of light-rail, rapid bus, and other efficient public transit methods.

As populations continue to increase, as streets get busier, and as people become more aware of the environmental impact of their personal driving habits, more and more cities are looking at the option of rapid transit to solve the problem of how to move more people more efficiently over a larger area. Many metropolitan areas will begin examining rapid bus and light-rail options as solutions for mass transit as more people turn to public transportation to get around.

If just a couple of these predictions hold true, 2016 will be an exciting year in the transit industry, with the end-user seeing the biggest benefits of all.