Transportation Technology is Key to Reopening American Cities Post-COVID

Scheduling a pickup on a rideshare app. Unlocking an e-scooter for a quick trip. Swiping a metro card before squeezing into a subway to get to work. Finding a parking spot close to the stadium before a big game. 

Prior to COVID-19, digital transportation technology made it possible for people to experience these common scenarios without a second thought. But once employees started working from home, students began online learning and people stopped moving about their cities – the need for transportation technology dramatically dropped. For example, for the first time in 115 years, the New York subway stopped running for 24 hours a day. U.S. roadways were also quieter. ParkMobile reported that paid parking transactions were down almost 95% in late March, and Uber reported that global ride-hailing requests dropped by 80% in April.

Now, after months of quarantine, some cities are starting to enter into “Phases One & Two” of reopening, which means people have the ability to leave their homes to visit local non-essential businesses and possibly return to work. But as with almost everything in our daily lives, the way we get from place to place will be dramatically different in a post-COVID world. 

Here’s how transit technology will help the transportation industry rebound in our new contactless, socially distant “new normal,” so ultimately, the world can be on-the-move again:

Public Transportation

Photo credit: MTA New York City Transit

Across the country, public transit systems experienced dramatic decreases in ridership during the coronavirus outbreak, but now commuters are slowly returning to metro lines and buses. Since the very nature of public transportation requires people to travel in confined spaces in close proximity to others, transit systems are adopting new disinfecting regimens to dissuade fears of some other potential outbreak. For example, in late May, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched a pilot to use powerful ultraviolet lamps designed by Denver-based startup Puro Lighting to disinfect subways and buses. 

Rideshare Apps

Photo credit: Yanfeng Automotive Interiors

After a decade of tremendous growth, ridesharing apps are figuring out ways to rebound and adapt in light of COVID-19. Lyft and Uber now provide drivers with face masks, cleaning supplies and are continually introducing new policies such as limiting the number of passengers or refusing to allow passengers to sit in the front seat. As a result, people may feel more comfortable riding in a Lyft or Uber vehicle than they would in a cramped subway car now. 

Eliminating germs in ride-hailing passenger vehicles creates an opportunity for growth in the “automotive in-cabin air quality improvement solutions market” for devices such as Yangfeng’s Wellness Pod, which attaches to the overhead console and claims to kill 99.9% of germs in the vehicle using UV light. 

Micromobility Transportation

Photo credit: TIER

Over the past three years, micromobility transportation solutions, such as e-scooters and shared bikes, have become a fixture on the streets of thousands of cities throughout the world, especially for residents and tourists traveling short distances. Once people start traveling again or commuting within cities, it will be interesting to see how companies update their devices and operations to encourage ridership. 

For instance, perhaps sanitizer pumps will be installed on e-scooters and shared bikes or vehicles will be taken out of service in between rides for a required cleaning from a local operations team member. Global operators Lime and Bird could also follow the lead of smaller companies like Tier, an e-scooter operator in Europe, which recently started testing antibacterial, self-disinfecting handlebar technology from Protexus

Cars & Parking

Photo credit: ParkMobile

To avoid public or shared transportation options altogether, many expect personal car use to increase. However, in cities where paid parking is common, there is already a shift to encourage contact-free payment methods via smartphones so that people can avoid touching common surfaces like meters and garage gate buttons where germs can fester. Car manufacturers may also incorporate more autonomous features into their vehicle cockpit technology. For example, BMW’s newer vehicles incorporate the ParkMobile platform so that people can pay for parking automatically, without even needing to use their phones.

To rebound post-COVID, transportation brands must keep the public informed on the changes they are making to ensure safety. If you’re in the transportation technology space, reach out to our team to discuss how Alloy’s Alloy Methodology can help you reach passengers, riders, drivers and municipal stakeholders.

Melissa Baratta
Melissa heads up Alloy's sector practice groups. With a passion for using storytelling to build connections and inspire action, she develops creative campaigns that drive results.
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