Disrupting Transit Procurement for Better Cities

It’s proven difficult to merge the dynamic world of technology with the slow-moving processes of procurement in public transit and across government agencies. States and localities are often understaffed in the procurement department, and navigating cumbersome rules and requirements does not lend itself to innovation. These obstacles cause agencies to miss out on working with flexible and fast-moving technology companies and startups such as Lyft, Uber, and Via that can ultimately improve the public transit experience for end users. Public-sector procurement is seeing gradual change, but how do we move faster? How can we disrupt the procurement process to make way for market and technology innovations that are changing the world of transportation around us?
 
BETTER SOFTWARE, MORE PARTNERSHIPS
 
At the state level, Virginia is at the forefront of procurement reform and improvement. In a 2016 study of state procurement offices, the Governing Institute ranked Virginia first in both procuring information technology and using technology in its procurement practices. At the center of Virginia’s procurement activities is a web-based vendor registration and purchasing system known as eVA that helps organize and speed up the buying process. eVA has been recognized for improving operational efficiencies for suppliers and buyers, and reducing the costs of acquiring goods and services. The state also released two enterprise eProcurement mobile apps, eVA Mobile 4 Business and eVA Mobile 4 Approvers, which provide the vendors and the public with real-time access to bidding processes.

Additionally, Virginia is a leading state in the advancement of public-private partnerships (P3s). The state passed legislation in 2015 that created a new government department specifically to promote P3s. When it comes to procuring the latest transportation technology such as mobile payment systems, these partnerships are vital. Larry Yermack at Cubic Transportation Systems pointed out in a recent article that public-private partnerships across the country still need improvement. He advocates for the need to create a new relationship between the government and technology partners that allows technology companies to “do what they do best” – efficiently develop flexible technology solutions. Although the process is far from perfect, promoting P3s at a state level is a solid start, and public transit is reaping some of the benefits. In 2015, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) partnered with moovel Transit (previously known as GlobeSherpa) to introduce VRE Mobile, the first mobile ticketing app for a transit system in the greater Washington D.C. area.
 
FRESH TALENT AND IDEAS
 
As the procurement industry grapples with a depleting workforce, the next generation of professionals will be integral in moving the industry forward. According to a 2015 Government Procurement survey, nearly one-fifth of public purchasing officials said they would be retired in the next two to three years. Bringing in fresh talent from other fields, especially the technology industry, can help revitalize the procurement process in our public agencies. The U.S. Digital Service (USDS), for instance, is a government technology startup that is establishing principles specific to buying digital services in the public sector. Armed with expert technologists, the USDS’ goal for procurement is to empower and educate government buyers and change processes by using private sector comparison scenarios.

Individual agencies are also making changes, as a new wave of public workers bring in the technical knowledge and flexibility that the transportation procurement process needs. Last year, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) created a Chief Technology Officer position and brought in David Block-Schachter, a former chief scientist at the transportation startup Bridj, to modernize MBTA’s processes and services. Elsewhere, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority put Jameson Auten at the head of their Regional Service Delivery and Innovation Division to implement innovative delivery models and partnerships for Kansas City public transit. Up and coming tech-savvy professionals have been trained to think of new ways to approach problems by utilizing digital tools innovatively. Most people entering the workforce today have grown up with mobile, smart, and data-driven solutions, as well, making them accustomed to continuously evolving technology.
 
RESOURCES
 
If you’re interested in getting into the field of public transit procurement, or would simply like to arm yourself with knowledge, here are some resources to start with:

TransitTalent.com is a career hub for open positions in public transportation. There are options to filter by sector, and you can choose “Procurement” as your job category. Try setting up an RSS feed to receive instant listing updates.
APICS is a professional association that offers educational programs and certifications in supply chain fields, including procurement. There are special benefits for student members including an online mentorship center, scholarship opportunities, and academic programs. The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) is another option for earning a professional procurement certification if you’re just starting out your career.
The U.S. Digital Service Playbook is an online resource with 13 key “plays” drawn from successful practices in the private sector and government that can help government agencies build effective digital services.
The TechFAR Hub is a public website that gives government acquisition experts the language, support and tools they need to flexibly navigate regulations and write better contracts. It also provides a how-to guide for private companies looking to do business with agencies.
 
Already working in public transportation? Transit agencies that are interested in hiring tech-savvy employees should consider using these sources of talent:

AngelList is a career site for job-seekers looking to work at startups, making it hub of techie talent. Last February, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority posted openings for 10 software engineers to bring a new team of technologists into the agency.
GitHub Jobs is the job board on GitHub.com, a gathering place for developers to create and collaborate on software projects.
Stack Overflow Jobs is the job board on StackOverflow.com, an online community where programmers ask questions and share technical knowledge.

 


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward

Q&A with David Pickeral, Smart and Connected Transportation Industry Expert

Can you walk us through a bit of your background and how you came to be an expert in smart and connected transportation?

It’s evolved over 30 years, really. I started out in the Navy doing military logistics transporting ordnance and hazmat. After I got out of the Navy in 1993, I went to law school, and my first civilian job was for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. That was the real clincher that got me into transportation, and I’ve been in some species of urban transportation ever since.

I practiced law for a couple years in the government and a couple years in the private sector, then landed at the intersection of technology and transportation while working in IT/ICT for what was then Bell Atlantic, now Verizon Telecommunications. In 1999 I got an offer from Booz Allen Hamilton. While I never intended to stop being a lawyer, they wanted me to give consulting a try because of my military background and management experience. I ended up staying there for 10 years, co-founded their smart transportation practice, and evolved into what I am now – a business practitioner and strategist related to smart transportation. After Booz, I spent a little over a year at ICF International working on developing their airport and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) practice, and then led IBM’s global smart transportation business under their Smart Cities brand for five years until 2015.

How would you describe your current role in the industry?

For the past year and a half I’ve been doing private consulting, advising the investment community around the world, and working with about a half dozen startups dealing with things from smart cities and smart transportation to connected cars and vehicles. I’m watching the industry, and have been waiting for the convergence in intelligent transportation and smart cities that we see happening right now, which I call the “execution phase.” When I was at the 96th annual TRB Conference in Washington last week, it was really clear that amidst changing political systems domestically and internationally, there’s a new spirit of entrepreneurship and the desire to do new and different things – including public/private partnerships (PPP/P3). The floodgates have opened, and there’s going to be a tremendous amount of technological and societal change in smarter transportation and smarter cities together.
 
Smart CIties
 
What do you think has been the most significant change in the transportation sector that has set the pace of technologies and innovations to come for the next decade?

The real catalyst for change is not technology, but a fundamental shift in societal thinking. Especially in younger generations, the car is seen as a hassle instead of a source of freedom. We’re moving from a transportation asset environment to a mobility environment, and that change is being fed by what people today want. They’re looking for journey-by-journey planning based on any number of factors – the weather, their mood, what they’re carrying, who they’re taking with them. When it comes to transportation, they just want the easiest way to get it, pay for it, and go, instead of being tied to a car and searching for parking. We’re seeing this shift to a mobility focus all around the world. Densely populated cities in China, for instance, are looking at whether it’s really practical to build a bunch of superhighways like America or Europe did, versus developing better mobility options.

Right now it’s still in the app phase with Uber and Waze, which are using a lot of social data and crowdsourcing, but the focus of technology will evolve into larger scale IoT environments. Ridership and usage data will be captured from all over the place, stored in the cloud, and then consolidated, analyzed, and anonymized.

Conversely, what are the gaps that remain to be filled?

While we have a lot of government policies and officials saying that we need smarter cities and need to make transportation more accessible, many states still have very old style procurement models. It’s hard to buy mobility as a service when your procurement model is geared toward only physical infrastructure—pouring concrete and erecting steel—rather than the digital assets that will make these things smart. And that’s a chronic problem that they’re trying to overcome. On the technological development side, the problem is sort of the reverse. Technologists are pouring tons of money into research and development, and creating a lot of cool technologies without looking at the real needs of the population this technology will ultimately serve. Everyone has a “disruptive technology” these days, but how do you monetize and make it useful for someone?

Now, the rubber has to meet the road––literally––and both sides need to step into public-private partnerships. The government needs more rapid decision-making and to buy technology in a transparent way for public procurement, while tech players need to develop scalable, replicable, and extremely reliable systems that truly deliver value. There has to be a sustainable, executable business model for both public and private participants to actually get things done. And I think this could start happening at scale in 2017 because the technology is now real enough, and the governments are saying they’ve figured out how to work with these businesses.

What’s something new in the world of smart transportation you’re excited about?

The thing I find the most exciting is the idea that every person will be able to have a cache of secure personal data and data-enabled mobility that almost follows them around – in a good way. Instead of buying a car, people will be able to use shared cars, make payments, and move seamlessly across mobility with their own content and preferences. It is essentially global technology, scaled right down to the needs of the individual person. You see a lot of movies set in the future where someone runs out of a building to a line of parked pods, jumps into one of the pods, scans their thumbprint, and goes. That’s the general idea – you’ll be able to go anywhere, easily. People will be securely identified using biometrics, and can jump on the metro, into a shared car, onto a bike, pay a toll, and so on. Mobility will be transparent, whether you’re going across the Bay Bridge or across the ocean. Even passports, driver’s licenses, and other documents will become obsolete. It will be safer, secure, seamless, and more transparent. That revolution is pretty exciting and a lot closer, at least technologically, than people think.
 
BayBridge
 
What issues do you find are top of mind for your clients and partners as they take on 2017?

For the last couple of years, since the economy has been taking off around the world, investors have been comfortable with the idea of creating new technology – from apps to AI to analytics to IoT. Now, investors and the public are in sync – we actually need to start seeing this do something. The beta tests are over, the pilots are over, we need to see these technologies doing stuff on the ground. It’s a legitimate concern, but I think the people who are smart will turn that into an opportunity. It will take big government and big industry to really engage with entrepreneurial companies and do things that are executable. A perfect example is Google and what they’re doing with Waymo. Since Google has grown to be so large, spinning off Google X into Waymo to give it more autonomy and have it operate more like an independent startup is a good tactic. We’ve gone from the trend of seeing tons of acquisitions to now seeing more focused business units and spin offs that can actually get things done in an entrepreneurial way.

Are there any companies you think are ahead of the curve already or are simply a good role model for other companies in the industry?

Like I mentioned, I think Google and Waymo are a good position for the big companies to take. I’m also a big fan of Tesla – Elon Musk is going to be remembered as a big innovator of this century. He’s doing the end-to-end package, from software to hardware to analytics, and I think he’ll change the automotive industry. On a smaller scale, I’ve been impressed by a company in Australia called Localift. They’re tapping into real communities (schools, towns, neighborhoods, etc.) and developing a network of ridesharing based on trust, as opposed to hailing an Uber or Lyft from a stranger. I think that concept makes sense for a lot of people who just want to get around town or get their kids to soccer practice in their own communities, not fly all over the world and use the same app in dozens of different cities.

How do you see you see the industry transforming in the next five years?

The next wave of transformation in transportation will be Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). Personal transportation used to be about distinctive styling and the specific brand of your own vehicle. However, cars are going to eventually be like elevators or taxi cabs – you take the next one that shows up and don’t care who makes it as long as it’s reliable and clean—and it is the sharecar and other fleet operators that will become the customers for the vehicle manufacturers. The differentiator for consumers is no longer going to be the product (a car), but it’ll be more about a service. The PTV Group is one of the pioneers in this – they just recently announced a new product suite of component technologies for planning MaaS operations. Many of the big players in automotive are also making moves (BMW has ReachNow, GM has Maven, Daimler has car2go), so that evolution has already started, and is going to progress significantly within the next five years.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who wants to break into the industry?

The classic piece of advice I give to business students is that technology is good and necessary, but it’s just the start. Technology is the known value in our industry’s equation. If you want to be an innovator, you have to understand what implementing that technology is doing in a larger sense. Pick a specialty you want to go into in the area of smart transportation, but then understand the broader technological, economic, social, policy, regulatory and operational implications of what you want to do, and develop a holistic set of knowledge that will let you apply it.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward

How Transit Companies Can Keep Their (And Your) Data Secure

We’ve seen a handful of attacks on public services over the past year. A couple of months ago, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was successfully victimized by hackers. While the damage done was minor, it’s the latest in a series of attacks on public services and government systems. An anonymous hacker claimed to have stolen more than 200 gigabytes of files from the Department of Homeland Security, which included the names and contact information of some 30,000 employees. And in Illinois, State Board of Elections officials believe voter personal information, such as driver’s license numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, could have been accessed. In fact, my own data was leaked in a vendor’s system that processes online sales of hunting and fishing licenses. With the expansion of the Internet of Things, the threat of cyber attacks and information being stolen isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s not all bad news, though. Companies and consumers alike can take proactive steps to minimize risk and limit the damage that occurs if an attack should strike.

First, it’s important to know which attacks to look out for. While there are many different types, a few are among the most common. Malware – any software used to disrupt computer or mobile operations, gather sensitive data, or otherwise gain access to private systems – is often seen in one of several forms, including computer viruses, worms, spyware, adware, or ransomware. That last one, which is what was used in the SF Muni attack, is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. In this case, though, no money was exchanged. Ransomware often utilizes a Trojan that has a payload disguised as a legitimate file. Clicking on that tainted file installs the ransomware.

Another threat comes not from outside hackers, but rather those closest to the company. Last year, a federal contractor was charged with stealing top-secret data. In this case, an employee had top-secret clearance and was responsible for an apparent leak that resulted in a cache of National Security Agency hacking tools appearing online. It can be difficult to know what an employee might do that could compromise security, whether willingly or unknowingly. That’s why it’s critical for transit companies to take action to limit their exposure to these types of attacks.

For starters, employee education is a must. Insufficient training is cited as one of the major mistakes a company can make, when it comes to protecting information. Companies need to hold their employees accountable; this means educating them on the company data policy and making sure they’re using strong passwords on all devices. Furthermore, companies should consider implementing limits on data their employees can access. Once an employee leaves the company, the company should make sure all of their devices are returned, reset to factory settings, and equally as important, that any servers the former employee was able to access have their passwords updated.

 

startup-photos

 

Transit agencies should regularly submit to external security and IT audits. The benefits of an audit are plentiful: it identifies weaknesses in internal control, lends credibility to financial statements, and provides unbiased, expert recommendations. In Austin, an annual comprehensive report contains financial statements audited by an independent external auditing firm. This varies annually; previous auditors have included Padgett Stratemann and KPMG. Every three years, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration conducts an assessment of grantee compliance with Federal requirements, and every four years, certain metro transportation authorities must prepare an audit. This audit looks at the agency’s compliance with the applicable state law, recent trends in several performance indicators, and topics around agency administration, management, system maintenance, and operations. These criteria vary per state, so transit companies should check the most recent guidelines within their state lines.

Finally, a company should take a look at the information they’re collecting from consumers – is all of it truly worth obtaining? While all data should be backed up regardless, it’s a good idea to see if some of the personal data that’s gathered, such as date of birth or the last four of an SSN, is really necessary. That could help minimize damage in case of a breach. And if the worst-case scenario happens and a breach does occur, be transparent and take action quickly. 47 states require disclosing a breach, if it occurs. Customers will be much more likely to once again trust a company that is honest and upfront when a situation arises.

Consumers, meanwhile, should utilize strong passwords on their devices and any apps or websites they use. Consider this: the most common passwords include “password” and “123456.” That’s pretty embarrassing. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters and update your passwords every few months. If the idea of memorizing a lot of passwords seems daunting, try out a password manager.

Consumers should also take advantage of updates to operating systems and transit apps when they are available. I’ve heard people complain or hesitate about updating, but there’s a reason why updates exist. They’re patching, fixing, and improving the platform so you have a better experience. That includes upgraded security, as well. It’s worth taking the time to update whenever one is available.

Additionally, remember the old adage that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t click on any suspicious links in an email or download attachments, even if it’s from a transit company you use. Confirm on the company’s site or do a quick Google search – “company name + scam” is usually sufficient enough – to ensure a deal or offer is legitimate.

Transit companies and consumers must both play a part in data security. In the mobile space, trust between clients and servers is crucial in preventing a man-in-the-middle attack like the ones discussed above. Make sure the provider of mobile apps is a trusted company. By working together, we can ensure we’re taking the best action against potential threats. With a proactive approach, the damage done if an attack occurs can be minimized.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

2017 Multimodal Transportation Industry Predictions

Multimodal may not be the standard mode of transportation yet—but it’s on its way. Today the integration of innovative software solutions with transportation options have empowered users to choose how they move across cities. And with a generation of millennials using anywhere from 30 to 60 percent biking or taking public transit for modes of transportation, the industry is steadfast on fine-tuning existing multimodal solutions. Over the next year, I predict three things will happen: Millennial influence will affect the future design of transportation applications. Sophisticated real-time data with the Internet of Things will create a better experience for riders. And autonomous vehicles will fully integrate into the realm of ride-share. The result? A multimodal system that will be primed and ready for the next generation.

1. Millennials have officially surpassed Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. And with the millennial population reaching 79.2 million by 2050, the transportation industry is committed to keeping the demanding generation happy. This strategy is a smart one with 70 percent of millennials using numerous travel options a week. It’s not uncommon for a person under the age of 34 to hail a Lyft to catch the train to commute to work each day. With data-rich smartphones in their pockets, endless applications provide them with choices to effortlessly connect their modes of transportation, in real-time. Because who wants to wait for a train? With this generation, the stakes are high. They keep an eye out for the latest and greatest in applications to ensure their options are seamless and effortless. Experts will work to ensure millennials are provided with a more efficient user experience than ever before. This means airy designs with no bugs. A millennial can troubleshoot around any unwieldy app, but they would rather just move on to the next one. An intelligent, personalized design keeps younger generations engaged. If experts modify designs applications to meet the end user’s lifestyle and needs, the more likely the millennial generation will remain loyal to multimodal.
 
Millennial Girls
 
2. Of course, innovatively designed applications need the IoT. Gartner predicts that the IoT will contain 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020, increasing the information related to transportation and mobility needs. With acceleration in data, the amount of real-time predictive analytics will drive more intelligent mobility. This will only enhance users experience across modes of transportation. For instance, with this data, multimodal transportation can deploy an implementation of sensors and big data management systems. These sensors will update users and transit authorities on everything from arrival times to alternate routes to avoid congestion, gifting commuters with accurate information regarding routes and schedule changes. Transit authorities can also track fleets of vehicles with GPS systems, allowing passengers on board to be notified when they’ll arrive. It seems trivial, but it’s vital that this data be more precise than ever before. A multimodal commuter relies on accurate timing to ensure they’ll get to their destination on time, and timing is everything when commuting.

3. It also seems commuters have been anxiously waiting for autonomous cars to join ride-share programs. Well, I have good news. Over the span of 2017, you’ll be able to hail a ride with no driver. Recently, Uber announced that they’re picking up users in San Francisco, expanding their pilot program on more roads. Several companies already have the self-driving technology and want to appeal to ride-sharing services. This will not only reduce the operational cost of the driver, but it gives consumers a greater opportunity to experience autonomous technology- which currently feels out of reach for many. Users will be able to utilize self-driving vehicles with ride-share applications as they do now. Vehicles will be readily available in highly congested areas, giving commuters the opportunity to supplement using their own car to reach mass transit. Additionally, many of the fleets of vehicles will be electric. And of course, all fleets will be thoroughly tested for safety. Ideal for city driving and our future environment.

Multimodal systems are necessary—especially since this mode of transportation appeals to an influential generation. If the industry wants to see these predictions come to fruition, we’ll have to continue to create more efficiently designed applications for millennials, provide accurate arrival data with the IoT, and create experiences our multimodal commuters have never experienced before. Like hailing an autonomous taxi with no driver, perhaps. This will prime multimodal transportation for success in 2017 and beyond.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

How Smartphones Have Transformed Transportation in the Last Decade

Since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, smartphones have become an essential part of our daily lives. Hardly used today to make a phone call, the fast development of internet access has expanded our possibilities way beyond a conversation. And with over 2.6 billion smartphone users worldwide, the resulting data has transformed the transportation industry, giving leaders insights into how people and vehicles move throughout the day. This desire for users to be overly connected to their smartphones provides a greater understanding of everything from where users are trying to go, to how they feel about their current route, in real-time. We may have just scraped the surface of harnessing this information, but if the past decade has taught us anything, it is that data from smartphones provide the transportation industry with endless opportunities. Here are two substantial ways smartphones have made a mark on the industry over the last decade.
 
Tracking Movement with Sensors
We don’t often think about it, but our smartphones are a network of sensors. And transport providers have collected this data to track our movement to create a more enhanced travel experience. With users more connected and reliant on their devices than ever before, resulting sources of data are helping the transportation industry gain insight on how we move across cities. Think about it; we use our smartphone to help us locate a restaurant, sort through route options, hail a Lyft, and tweet our opinions about our dining experience. Companies and databases collect this information through GPS, Wi-Fi, social networks, and Bluetooth Low Energy. In fact, Canada is currently employing Bluetooth signal detectors to monitor and analyze traffic patterns in real-time and a similar system is currently live in Thailand. Additionally, rich source data provides transit agencies with the ability to re-route buses to fit common movement patterns, equipping them with the right information to improve passenger experiences. The Transport for London (TfL) plans to use this technology to gain a better understanding of their passengers. The agency will organize a four-week trial to detect users’ smartphone Wi-Fi footprints, gaining them access to accurate and contextual data to push service alerts to riders. This information will also help the agency adjust schedules and plan routes to improve their service. As service providers and transit authorities continue to provide and collect this data, the more efficient moving around our cities will become.
 
The Rise of Network Effects
If there’s one thing that users love about their smartphones—it’s social media. Internet access on-the-go has given commuters the ability to receive notifications to ensure their trips feel customized. Similar to the data that is collected to track movement, transport agencies now possess the capacity to track sentiments of the user through their social networks. This is the foundation of creating a more personalized travel experience. In particular, Facebook and Twitter have helped mass transit services analyze passenger satisfaction. Agencies can engage with passengers to ensure everyone is satisfied during their commutes with monitoring social feeds. Additionally, crowdsourced traffic and navigation apps like Waze—allow real-time help from other drivers with community-edited maps and notifications. This information provides users with the exact time they need to leave the house to avoid traffic and provide the exact time they will arrive. Similarly, the user generated transport app Trafi allows users to create public transport related content. Combined with their algorithm filters, users can notify other commuters and adjust their routes accordingly. A company called MZ (formerly Machine Zone) is also applying networks to operate the public transportation system for the city of Auckland in New Zealand with their RTplatform. It provides consumers with access to precise information in real time. Users can track the arrivals of any bus or train and gain access to updated traffic times. Thanks to the RTplatform, New Zealand’s network has joined all devices together with a software that is easy enough for any person to use.

No one could have predicted the fundamental part smartphones play in our everyday lives. The amount of rich insight our devices have provided on the way we move, feel, and connect has reshaped our travel experiences. Users desire to be overly connected to their smartphones is still strong, and it continues to provide the industry with greater understanding of users in real-time. This may be just the beginning of exploiting smartphone data, but it only means the transportation industry will become more innovative and effective than ever before.
 

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.