The transport landscape in our cities is more complex than ever. In an attempt to address rising population levels, we’ve enhanced urban development and infrastructure, improved public transport options, and provided rideshare programs and bike share services, all in a bid to make getting around cities easier.
Enhancing public transport involves a lot of planning, government and council involvement. Ultimately, it’s a time consuming and expensive business. Large-scale infrastructure projects are also difficult to complete in overpopulated urban spaces, which were not designed with the current population in mind.
Simply building our way out of the problem is not a viable solution, and this is where start-ups come into play. Start-ups are at the forefront of providing new, innovative and sustainable solutions, particularly when it comes to the transport sector.
They have greater flexibility in their service offering and aren’t bogged down by restrictive regulations and red tape in the same way that larger transport companies and authorities are.
In general, smaller businesses are able to flex their creativity and innovation in ways that large organisations simply can’t. This means that they have the natural advantage of responding to, and predicting, consumer expectations much more quickly than the bigger players.
Uber is a perfect example of this. The former start-up turned the taxi industry on its head by offering a digital first, convenient solution to hailing a ride. This alone resulted in the company having an initial market cap of $75.5 billion when it went public in May 2019.
While governments and transport authorities are relied upon to improve infrastructure, start-ups are in a unique position to provide technology solutions to congestion within cities, using valuable data.
They can help authorities unlock a better understanding when the public access cities, catering to the peaks and troughs in the flow of both people and vehicles. Long term, both start-ups and authorities can work together to unlock invaluable insights.
And the big players in this space are making progress. For example, through the UbiPark platform, we are able to partner with councils to provide them with data around the most congested roads and car parks versus the most underutilised.
This allows authorities to understand where additional infrastructure is needed to meet demand, and encourage parking utilisation where necessary. At the same time, commuters are able to benefit from a convenient transport experience that immediately addresses mobility issues such as congestion.
Start-ups are also able to easily introduce newer concepts and ideas that support the way we get around. For instance, the notion of shared mobility and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) only came into prominence in the last few years, but are now universally seen as the future of transport due to their potential to drastically reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and emissions from vehicles.
This development was born from companies such as Uber, GoGet and oBike, which were able to set the foundations of a transport revolution and are now considered key players in today’s transport ecosystem.
Through authorities and councils partnering with tech start-ups, we can take advantage of existing technology and better manage and improve the commuter experience right now. This way we are not simply relying on additional and potentially unnecessary infrastructure, and we can reduce congestion and ease the pressure off our urban areas.
While population growth is inevitable, there are ways that both governments and tech companies can collaborate to create efficient and easily accessible cities. By providing commuters with more transport options, we can ease pressure on our roads and create a more enjoyable, sustainable transport experience. And it all starts with start-ups.
Mosstyn Howell, CEO, UbiPark