"We offer apps with real time arrival information and a host of passenger conveniences to make sure they are informed on every step of their journey. Technology has provided increased efficiency and reliability to bring new opportunities and modernise transit for good."
Transdev is a huge multi-modal transportation company that operates 13 modes of service in 19 countries, giving it a unique industry perspective. The company also operates 33 commuter and light rail networks, is a leader in managing electric bus fleets and is pioneering technology for autonomous vehicles. Around amonth ago, Transdev won a contract to operate a streetcar in Milwaukee that is due to begin running in late 2018.
For this week’s 5 minutes with… Dave Songer spoke to Mark Joseph, the former CEO of the North American group and the new global chief development officer. His aim is to grow the business worldwide as well as extend growth locally, but how does it hope to stay ahead of the trends and search for those new technologies to help the passenger?
Dave Songer (DS): Congratulations on the latest contract win in Milwaukee, Mark. Can I start by asking what first inspired you to enter the rail industry?
Mark Joseph (MJ): It was a family affair. I took over the Yellow Cab business for my father in Baltimore and helped to grow it into a regional transportation company in the US. I’ve now been involved in the transport industry for more than 30 years at many levels. My current role focuses on the business management side of our customer relationships and securing a higher renewal rate similar to our success rate in North America.
(DS): What are some of the biggest changes that have occurred in rail since you began working in it?
(MJ): Three big issues jump out at me. At Transdev (@transdev) we became early adopters of technology. Technology is integral to what we do and requires a lot of investment. We have been pioneering our app called TripLinx from CityWay, available in Toronto, which has a similar format to Citymapper. It is a sophisticated, predictive trip planner with information about all modes of transportation that’s available at your fingertips.
Secondly, there have been more open partnerships with public agencies. We need to encourage more private investment and interest in order to trigger growth. This is different from the privatisation models that have been scrutinised in the U.K. This is about public agencies partnering with private companies to secure efficiencies and best practices in safety and technology. Autonomous shuttles are a perfect example of how partnerships can lead to new solutions. It’s very difficult for a public agency to make the needed investment in time, resources and technology. Transit partners can bring these resources as well as expertise to the table and help clients integrate driverless options into their existing transit and rail systems.
And thirdly, rail has changed on a macro scale as millennials and mature citizens are more likely to give up their cars and use public transport systems that include rail. Our job is to connect them and allow our passengers to navigate without the hassles of traffic or parking. We offer apps with real time arrival information and a host of passenger conveniences to make sure they are informed on every step of their journey. Technology has provided increased efficiency and reliability to bring new opportunities and modernise transit for good.
(DS): What has been your biggest achievement whilst working at the company?
(MJ): I think transit agencies in general have an important role to play in modernising society and we can create positive changes to improve the user experience. We have built enduring partnerships with many cities and helped them achieve their vision for mobility.
Personally, I have learned more about global enterprise and how valuable it is to share ideas from around the world. This makes the business both global and local as best practices, talent and technology can be shared around the world.
(DS): How do you predict rail is likely to change in the next 10 years?
(MJ): It will become more popular and more integrated with other modes. Not only is this a generational reality, but an urban requirement for cities that want to eliminate gridlock and turn toward a more sustainable future. Entire cities have reinvented themselves on the back of enhancing access to public transit. I believe that will be a growing trend in the next decade.
With the advent of driverless vehicles, we will also see the growth of first/last mile solutions that help more passengers reach rail stations and key transfer points in a shared vehicle. Without the need for a car, and with integrated driverless and first/last mile options, public transit will increasingly be relied on for a higher percentage of journeys.
(DS): What ways do you think the government will be able to deliver the necessary changes for the rail industry?
(MJ): The government needs to ensure public safety and regulations are met across shared systems. Take GPS for example. The government has the power to enable the flow of services across the transport industry, additionally they should ensure stable and safe systems and infrastructure that are adequately resourced. It is important to encourage competition and private investment with innovative partners around the world.
Furthermore, the government needs to understand the levels of customer service that are needed. Nowadays, passengers have multiple options and they aren’t a captive market anymore. With a range of mobility options, passengers can make last-minute transit decisions, so it is vital that agencies and their partners work harder to meet these rising expectations.
(MJ): Transdev is constantly trying new approaches to reshape and enhance the passenger experience. The best way to do that, we’ve found, is to actually be a passenger. When you can anticipate the needs and demands of riders you can work to implement changes – the small touches that add to the journey – that build loyalty and leave passengers with positive sentiments toward transit.
Additionally, as technology opens new avenues for opportunity, and it provides passengers with new solutions to get to and from work and home, it will help to build a seamless modal experience that better serves the community.
(DS): And what infotainment services will you offer?
(MJ): Wi-Fi is already on offer on board many of our buses and trains. But we are also looking to strengthen our relationships with Apple, eBay, Tesla and Netflix to provide on-demand services to improve mobility on their campuses and get their employees to work, with nice amenities for their convenience.
(DS): What is your favourite rail journey?
(MJ): I have to say that trains that are reliable are probably my favourite! I also think trains need to be the right length for their purpose. For example, Maglev and bullet trains are about getting from A to B as quickly as possible, but if I were travelling through Canada I would prefer a scenic overnight train. Despite this, my normal top preference is to travel quickly, efficiently, comfortably and with all the information I need at my fingertips – those factors are today’s customers key expectations.
(DS): Great to have caught up with you, Mark. Good luck with everything.
Last week's 5 minutes with… Jo Willacy, commercial director at Eurotunnel.
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: email@example.com to find out more.