The role of rider-centric data infrastructure in shaping tomorrow's transportation experience

Wednesday, 17 April 2024
The subject of regulatory frameworks, as the City of Amsterdam’s city management advisor Vincent Lau succinctly put it, is not what you would necessarily call a ‘sexy’ subject, but to ensure that public transport riders and passengers are at the centre of a city’s transit thinking they are absolutely essential. That they aren’t at the forefront of city planning perhaps tells its own story, but in order to provide riders with the mobility experience they deserve and truly lower the dependency on privately-owned cars, good data is every bit as crucial as buses, ticket machines and accessibility ramps. 

The enlightening panel discussion, which began with each contributor recounting their favourite personal transit story by way of an icebreaker, highlighted the importance of open data standards and interoperability, using fare standards and MaaS ticketing as practical examples. Moderator Isabelle de Robert, product director at Mobility Data added that although roads help people to navigate to destinations, mobility data infrastructure helps people navigate to decisions. The importance of accurate, relevant, timely data, a recurring theme across the opening two days of Intertraffic Amsterdam 2024, was at the core of the discussion. Inaccurate or out of date information isn’t just an inconvenience to travellers – it can mean missing out on a vital job interview, for example, with untold unfortunate consequences.

ITxPT project manager Tu-Tho Thai warned against cities considering that the format of the data is the end goal, suggesting that the end goal ideally should be that passengers and transit riders both use and trust the data, with particular emphasis placed on those travellers with mobility impairments. Google Maps’ strategic partnerships lead, Ajay Arora, insisted that the human dimension to tomorrow’s transportation experience, for example ‘surfacing more urban mobility’ and improving navigational data, all with the user in mind, was absolutely key. Arora’s team’s main task is to enhance the UX of the Google Maps community and pointed to a number of high-level collaborations that have done just that.

The aforementioned Lau agreed that public transport riders must be in a position to trust the data provided to them by the city and suggested that ‘unsexy’ regulatory frameworks are essential in offering a level playing field, in data terms, to all interested parties. “And it’s not a case of competition versus interoperability, either”, he concluded, adding that interoperable data was integral to shaping tomorrow’s transportation experience.