Insights 29 March 2019 By: Madeleine Funes

US Mass Transit Trends in 2019: Operator Challenges Start with Mobile

More Americans are taking a multi-modal approach to travel, which fares well for mass transit operators, provided they’re able to offer a digital-friendly, app-based experience that makes life easy for riders. But our recent report, Challenges Facing Municipal, Regional and National Transit Agencies in the United States, finds that adopting mobile technology solutions remains a challenge for many operators across the nation.

According to the first report in our US Ground Transportation series, Modernizing the Passenger Experience in U.S. Ground Transportation, 68% of respondents who used mass transit in the past year also used ridesharing, compared to 32% who hadn’t. These respondents were nearly 2x as likely to use more than one mode of transport in a single trip, and 4x as likely to have downloaded multiple transportation apps.

Mobile Remains a Challenge 

That’s the good news for mass transit operators. It means that the ridesharing phenomenon can actually help transit organizations increase their ridership numbers by offering a well-designed mobile app. The bad news is that only 37% of U.S. transit operators currently make an app available to their riders. And of those, only 24% offer intermodal facilitation as a feature in their mobile apps.

This lag in meeting riders’ mobile expectations can be attributed to operators’ difficulties implementing new mobile solutions. About a quarter (23%) of national operators and 24% of large transit organizations (1k-10k employees) say that implementing mobile technology is their single biggest challenge.

Attracting Mobile, Multi-Modal Riders 

So how can mass transit operators do a better job of attracting and serving more multi-modal riders? By offering a mobile app that eases the difficulties that intermodal riders experience. That means offering technology that is on par with apps offered by ridesharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and MiRide.

With customer acquisition being the second-most common challenge in US transportation – cited by 23% national, 33% regional, and 17% of private operators – it makes sense for operators to pursue strategies that can help them bring in new riders. This could be why more than a quarter (39%) of mid- to large-sized operators (those between $10 million and $5 billion in revenues) plan to implement a native mobile strategy in the next year.

Takeaway: Many transit operator challenges – and improvements to the rider experience – can be accomplished with a well-designed, easily implemented transit app, that provides the convenience and ease of use that today’s travelers are looking for. To learn more download the second report in our multi-part series here.