Tomorrow’s transit: hub creates transport solutions

The NSW Government is partnering with technology innovators to tackle Sydney’s transport woes by fast-tracking customer-focused apps.

Experts say that congested roads causing bus delays and overcrowded and delayed trains worsened by inadequate infrastructure are plaguing NSW’s transport network.

“The biggest challenge is the dominance of the car, which makes up over 80 per cent of all trips,” says Professor David Hensher, director of the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport Logistics.

“Even though we’ve done quite a good job with public transport provision in the peak, at 80 per cent, the amount of infrastructure that we have is quite inadequate to be able to service any prospective growth in the future,” Professor Hensher says.

As the NSW Government develops a 40-year transport strategy to help tackle the state’s congested transport network, its Future Transport Digital Accelerator is working on practical solutions.

Transport for NSW is partnering with City Innovation Foundation, Mastercard, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Optus and Amazon Web Services on the accelerator, which is based the Sydney Startup Hub at Wynyard.

Since it launched in May the accelerator has seen 2,500 entrepreneurs working to drive responsive solutions by identifying customer “pain points.”

Chris Bennetts, executive director digital products and services at Transport NSW said the accelerator brings together teams across transport to understand the key problems facing customers and either design a solution or “wrap it up” as an innovation challenge and put it out to the market.

By fast-tracking digital solutions, the accelerator is aimed at both minimising bureaucracy within agencies and focusing on customer-driven solutions, Mr Bennetts said.

“We are front-ending the process of digital acceleration. We have a customer insight team that pulls in data from customers in feedback channels as well as customer satisfaction surveys,” he told Government News.

Tracking full train carriages

One solution developed by the accelerator is an application named Waratah that enables customers to track how full a train carriage is in real-time.

Mr Bennetts said the app was developed after the team analysed data from customers calling for a solution to overcrowded carriages.

“We worked out how to expose those data sets and then worked with the app community to expose data in a new way for customers,” he said.

The accelerator has also been focusing on the idea of mobility as a service, the concept that all travel options can be accessed through a single platform or app, Mr Bennetts said.

“It’s a newer concept in the industry; trying to help customers make the connection and choose public transport instead of using a car.”

The team has also developed a digital learner logbook to help learner drivers log their driving hours digitally, saving them the paperwork.

“We put an innovation challenge out and three applications came through that ultimately became endorsed applications for Service NSW. Today when you get a learner license, you’ll see on the form apps you can download.”

More recently the accelerator developed two applications – Deckey and Boatable – to help manage boat traffic on Sydney Harbour.

Mr Bennetts says the accelerator has been well-received by entrepeneurs – feedback he hopes will continue into the future as the team continues to innovate.

“If we look at the transport hub, my hope is we can get people to begin to think about transport technology because we think it is and will continue to be a very big industry,” he said.

Need to partner

While Professor Hensher welcomed the innovation hub, he said that innovators must partner with researchers to maximise the effectiveness of new solutions.

“It’ll only work if they develop partnerships with universities and other innovation groups, not something Transport for NSW can do itself as an innovator, it’s more of a facilitator.”

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