Author: Ana Stanca
Demand Generation Leader, Enghouse Transportation
A perfect storm of challenges has hit the transit sector across the developed world over the last few years. The impact of the pandemic, the shift to remote and hybrid working, and workforce shortages have all reduced passenger numbers. Alongside these challenges, our passenger expectations have increased as riders increasingly expect a convenient, flexible, and reliable service that facilitates spontaneous travel.
How are these challenges impacting US transit agencies and how might technology provide the answer?
The Silver Tsunami
The first of the big three challenges facing the transit sector is an ageing workforce. Across the economy, industries are having to think creatively about how a dwindling workforce can be addressed. In the transit sector, this challenge is even more pronounced. Research by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) discovered that 43% of all transit workers were aged 55 or over in 2021. This represents a 3% increase in the 2019 figure and compares with 24% in all industries combined.
Many transit agencies came into being in a period between the 1960s and 1980s, at a time when the Baby Boomer generation was becoming economically active. As these agencies began operating, the retirement clock began ticking for their workforce from day one. While transit agencies have enjoyed good staff retention over the years, the problems of recruiting new members of staff have been consistent. Lack of immediate necessity until recently has led to many agencies placing the problem on the back burner.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, numerous agencies negotiated early retirement packages for long-serving workers to help them manage reduced income and radically reduced passenger numbers. As restrictions eased and passenger numbers began to grow again, agencies were left with a serious staffing problem.
A Modernized Industry in A Digital Age
APTA’s 2021 Workforce Readiness Guide identified that public transit is seen as an outmoded, old-fashioned industry among younger job-seekers. In reality, transit is a highly innovative and increasingly tech-driven sector that’s going to be central to achieving ambitious carbon reduction targets.
Automated Fare Collection is a key component of creating a modernized industry. It facilitates flexible and spontaneous joined-up travel, allowing passengers to pay with the tap of a card, smartphone, or watch.Automated Fare Collection systems also mean that staff do not have to deal with payments, travel cards and tickets. Customer service staff are free to focus on the overall rider experience, while maintenance staff no longer must install, service and repair fair vending infrastructure. Transit operators are freed from fare collection entirely, allowing them to focus on providing an efficient service. Cash boxes are eliminated, making transit buses a much less attractive target for criminals.
The Key To An Efficient Flexible Future
While AFC alone won’t solve a complex workforce challenge, for transit agencies it will be a significant part of the solution. AFC reduces transit agency responsibilities for fare collection, requires a smaller workforce and helps to modernize the industry, making it more attractive as an employer. Agencies can concentrate recruitment efforts on key roles such as drivers that are unlikely to be replaced by technology in the near future.
Download our Whitepaper – The 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Bus Agencies & One Smart Solution, to find out more about the range of challenges facing bus agencies and the role that automated fare collection can play in addressing them.
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