Authorities seeking to achieve Total Transport (TT) are already aware that they cannot do this on their own, TT cannot be ‘outsourced’ or tendered for others to do for them. While it is possible to outsource many parts of TT, this cannot be done as a whole!
To make TT a reality, a group of organisations need to create a manageable awareness of all the people that need to move from place to place at different times during the week/ year, knowing what their needs are to be met, against what resources are there to meet those needs, such that there is a dynamic awareness of all these in real time.
To achieve this there must be total awareness of all mass and communal transport, regarding exactly what is where, what its’ commitments are, with financial implications, and how these resources can best meet upcoming demands. There are publicly accessible apps that show where every passenger airplane is in the sky, and every ship in the sea, able to show where it started and when, where it is now and where it is going with its ETA. Air-travel includes the complexity of height, developing this holistic awareness for land based public / private transport is complex, BUT not impossible!
Some complexities exist purely because we create them, for instance, the propensity of managing different types of transport as a series of silos’ with ownership of contracts and resources more important than function. For the concerned passengers, Transport generally isn’t made of these independent unique aspects, it’s a continuum, with opportunity and their experiences leading to transport choices. Highly congested routes may be in demand, but if a better route becomes available, that will take over. For instance , prior to the M25 being built, we did predict it would become congested by local traffic straight away, but the decision makers wouldn’t listen!
Most organisations are ‘Data rich – Information poor’, they have systems that may not be 100% appropriate, poorly used and not well maintained, that do not interface with others. Currently there are no Passenger Transport (PT) ICT systems that address all modes of transport, and even where one company may produce systems for most transport types, those systems from the same company cannot interface seamlessly.
Those ‘Information poor’ organisations then are influenced by ‘modern management’ concepts where ICT may provide platforms and systems to run, but DON’T ensure that data integrity, continuity and interchanges are successful. Procurement may advise on European Law and the economy of scale, but will never see the damage of designing services in parts, compared to designing the whole. Finance and Audit may insist on T’s and C’s to ensure they regulate every penny, while the pounds haemorrhage…
PT Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) then carry out their niche areas of design, for routes, patronage, inclusions and exclusions, ‘Knowing’ that these designs are best, but rarely testing whether other designs are far better, or discovering whether their assumptions are even correct. The combination of ‘poor information’, ‘assumptions’, ‘myopic VfM’ and ‘SME’s’ can lead to designs that neither meet the needs of the organisations nor the public, which with reducing budgets inevitably leads to reducing service offerings.
To illustrate that point I’ll show three examples, the first is from typical Home to School (H2S) Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) transport, the second is from H2S Mainstream Transport.
1) SEND transport is highly regulated, with councils transporting a few hundred to a couple of thousand passengers every day, both to schools within their boundaries, and to specialist services considerably further away. The psychology of working as an SME leads people to take narrower views of options over time, rather than wider. Thus (in general) the SEND SME KNOWS that they must: a) Arrange Transport for the allocated person, b) Meet all the requirements for safe-guarding, c) Achieve the best VfM in the short, medium and long term, d) Retain contracts that have two more years to run, e) Comply with Policy, f) Comply with regulations etc.
The information about the passenger will be initially supplied by a Social Care SEND SME, while some additional travel questions may be asked, the right to travel and their travel needs will be virtually written in stone. Often SME’s interpret Policy and Legislation in certain ways, which more often than not creates an over-servicing due to frequent complaints and appeals. Amazingly some councils have been seen to exceed Policy for 98% of passengers!
During the year (September to July) passengers tend to be added to (and taken off) routes as circumstances change. If the route designs near were perfect in August, (perhaps building in just-in-case capacity) they will be less than perfect immediately after. However, most designs are based on the ‘Economy of scale’ (as defined by Procurement and Finance SME’s) so every summer year one and two contracts are left intact, while all the major route changes focus on contracts that have come to their third year.
If you look at routes ‘one at a time’ then they tend to look OK, however, if you look at all routes going into a school at the same time, you tend to see a plate of spaghetti, with longer routes, taking strange detours, inter-twined with many other routes. Typically, 20% of routes can be culled, reducing costs by around 15%, while actually reducing the average time to travel to school.
2) Most Mainstream transport is designed so that the bus arrives to school about 95% full, even if a few people don’t go to school that day. The SME mind-set is that the bus is 100% efficient. THIS IS NOT TRUE! A bus may have 76 seats available to be filled. In general, for H2S mainstream travel, that bus will set out from a depot, travel to the first pick-up location, start collecting passengers, arrive at the school, where everyone gets off, then return to the same depot. In terms of seat occupation miles, there tends to be less than 20% utilisation compared to possible. So the SME tells the decision makers these buses are 100% full, but actually they are less than 20% occupied! Interesting!
3) Focussing on the Passenger needs: The H2S SEND SME will know they need supported transport, perhaps from the age of four through to eighteen. That’s a budget commitment of perhaps £300,000 for that one passenger. That SME knows that they MUST provide transport from home to school, to ensure that person gets to school safely, as is required by statutory guidance and policy! However: that guidance places the prime responsibility on the council to: “improve the physical well-being”, including “Independent Travel Training” for those customers.
Thus, if the independence of that passenger to live a ‘normal life’ was first and foremost, should we collect people from their door and take them in a single vehicle all the way to their school, or should we help develop their travel skills and life awareness from the outset? Chauffer driven door to door transport actually inhibits life skill development, leading to an increased probability that those children needing £300,000 worth of transport, will need far more social care support once at an adult age! That is, well-meaning SME’s create costs and dependence, rather than VfM and independence.
Similar ‘cotton wool wrapping’ happens for H2S Mainstream passengers, if they get on a (dedicated) school bus, it will pick them up near home, and take them all the way to school. No bus changes and no non-school passengers on board. And yet, if due to post-code circumstances a child gets a bus card to go to school, they may need to change buses and share with other passengers. Thus the design mind-sets get concreted in: Dedicated H2S must be: “One bus, no other passengers”. Why?
Returning to ‘effectiveness’ of route designs. The one bus rule can often lead to six different H2S buses driving through a small town, picking up a few people every so often, to go to schools in varying locations. How different would those services be if:
- The first bus collected people to take to a staging post (i.e. a bus stop)?
- Those buses could collect fee-paying passengers as well as H2S ones?
- Other buses regularly went along distributor roads servicing those bus stops?
- Routes were designed and coordinated as a ‘whole system’ with interchanges a core concept?
This is a sample of ideas and developments within a 70-page booklet called ‘Total Transport – From theory to practice’.
NOTE Visualising Transformation is a way of working that maximises the information to all people within the system, so as to be useful for their purposes. Enabling people to see what is happening and have knowledge as to how to use that information is at the heart of Lean and Systems Thinking.
VT-Achieving More for Less acknowledges that everything is connected, no one idea is unique or independent of others. We would love to hear your thoughts, or to deal with requests via email@example.com
 IPPR 2015 A new deal for town and rural bus services, August 2015. Luke Raikes, Will Straw & Clare Linton