Innovations in Transport

High Level Ideas

  • Information

  • Passengers vs freight

  • Training on how to use a service

  • Capacity and the opportunity costs associated with frequency

  • In Europe, cross-border issues (technical as well as legal)

  • Inspiring people to care about transport and making it better - getting into the industry. (e.g.: going to the moon furthered our interest in space travel and related technologies that were needed for it).

Brian Simpson

Brian focused a good amount of his time talking about urban mobility, goods movements, and border transfers. There are legal and technical issues to these, in particular treaties that block cross-broder transport efforts. Oftentimes, national interests trump international concerns, even within an environment like the EU.

Horizon 2020

Brian asked “What fuel should cars use? You don’t want gas over here and electric over there - you want a combined solution”. My reaction to this is why must we all go one particular way. Can different implementations further knowledge about options and real life usage and implementations? It seems like we’re still so early in non-fossil fuel options that we need to explore the options to see what works best. The issue you want to avoid is building massive infrastructure that can’t adapt or creates a de facto selection of a particular option because the investment was so great that they can’t just “scrap” it for something else. Investigating options needs to be flexible and understand its place in the global landscape. Definitely we want to avoid situations where a technology works in one place and the same type of technology doesn’t work in another because the infrastructure is different (e.g.: train rail gauges).

Peter Stoner, Traveline

  • Information is key, not just infrastructure.

  • When designing a system, you need to focus on what happens when things go wrong, not just when they work fine.

  • Information plays part in what fares are, but also how we utilize all the capacity we have available. You could spread out travel to make use of off-peak travel options (not only are these cheaper, but there is often more capacity at these times).

  • Do we need a “celebrity” figure to garner interest in the topic of planning and engineering?

  • Infrastructure, information, training on how to use services.

In general, much of my time with transit has been spent thinking about how information dissemination can be done. Information about how to use a service is as important as knowing that the service will get you where you want to go. If I know that the bus can take me to my destination, but I don’t know how much it costs or how to buy a ticket; what the destination bus stop is or where to get the bus I need; then I’m still handicapped from using the service. You could get some of this information in real time by getting on the bus you need and hoping they know where you’re going. For people new to an area or unfamiliar with colloquial names, the destination you ask about might not be what they call it locally. This happens to me sometimes with soccer stadium names. The information access points need to be complete, showing fare options, the network, and how to use the service. One thing I routinely struggle with when trying to use transit services in a new city is understanding the network. When I understand the network, I can make more informed decisions about the routes I take. For example, when I know two stations are close to together, I can choose to walk to an adjacent station instead of use the service with a transfer. I think this really important in a city like London, where the Tube map frequently suggests stations are closer to or further away from each other than they actually are.

David Hytch, TfGM

  • Should look at how high capacity services can choke out less frequent services. Two trains per hour Virgin Train services on the west coast main line have destroyed options to provide other services in this corridor because all the capacity is taken with these high-speed services.

  • Information on how more pathways are open for other options.

  • Give people options.

  • Service management - like roadway management, things like opening the shoulders of roads during rush hours (like they do on I-66 in Northern Virginia) to create on-demand capacity expansion.

High Speed 2

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a proposed high speed rail line in the UK, connecting London with Birmingham and Manchester, reducing travel times by at least an hour. This topic came up in the questions. Someone asked about the fear that Birmingham and Manchester would become de facto suburbs of London. There doesn’t seems to be the thought that it could drive people in the other direction. By making Manchester more accessible to not only London, but Europe, it could become more attractive to people as either a destination or home. Birmingham and Manchester are definitely cheaper than London, which is why the question gets raised—cheaper standard of living and quick travel to London means you could relocate. The fear is that even more dollars go to the capital. However, if you could travel quickly between the cities, it opens the doors for companies to move their businesses to Birmingham or Manchester and still have quick access to partners or competitors that remain in London. It could be a competitive advantage because it could be cheaper to do business in Birmingham/Manchester, allowing higher wages or profits. London is expensive for everyone, even businesses. So if there are quick travel options between the cities, yes, some will commute to London (people already do this), but it could present options for relocation while still being able to be competitive.


We need to inspire people about planning and transport. We need more positive discussions about transport. We also need to expose big ideas about transport more widely. Often transport discussions focus on the minutia of an implementation. These are useful conversations but not always interesting for lay people. The big ideas can get people excited about the topics of transport.

I think some of this inspiration will come from exposure. If all you experience is your bus service or train service, it’s possible that’s all you think is an option. Or if you see some other form while traveling, you could assume it would only work in that location or circumstances. If you don’t know the network available, you could think it won’t work for you. There could be more emphasis on how to imagine something similar in your own area. It can get you thinking about how buildings could be rearranged to allowed greater movement—or maybe it encourages exploration a wider selection of fare options (e.g.: fare free zones in city centers).

Such an example of rethinking might be to use existing passenger transport areas for freight movement (à la freight being sent on passenger planes). In Britain (and lots of Europe), rail freight is secondary to passenger transport. In the US, it’s the opposite. Could goods be transported on passenger transport infrastructure during off hours as an add on revenue source for the transport agency? Few agencies have 24-hour services (usually due to demand). Could you provide freight services during these off hour times to get services into the city center? Could you have seat-less trains into which you put freight, and it transports it to stops near the destinations? This could take heavy trucks off roads during day hours, lessening traffic congestion or dangers associated with these large vehicles. Alternatively, could transit cars be designed such that all the seats could be pushed out of the way and cargo containers be put into the cars. This would eliminate the need for cargo-specific cars that sit idle for most of the day, which would take up space in the yards.

I love events like this, which get people thinking about the transport systems holistically and innovatively. What we currently have built aren’t the only options. We do need inspiration to think beyond these. Part of this comes from ideation, but I think also it can come from experiencing transit in other places. Yes, it can show you that your area gets some things right, but I can also show you a better way to do something.