Leveraging technology for public transit post Covid-19?

As quarantine measures are lifted, concerns regarding overcrowding and reduced service on public transit are fast As quarantine measures are lifted, concerns regarding overcrowding and reduced service on public transit are fast growing. Technology offers opportunities to make transit safer, reliable, and efficient considering these challenges.


As many people are working from home or learning online currently the only people utilizing public transportation are those who require it as essential staff or for trips to grocery stores or hospitals (ideally). However, as emergency measures lessen public transit will undoubtedly become a main method of commuting once again. In order to provide sufficient service that meets social distancing guidelines, Toronto could consider utilising data from commuters to drive scheduling. For example, in London, UK transportation authorities are considering booking time slots at train stations to better equip on site staff and to provide an adequate level of service. In order for this to be effective, transit riders will need to preemptively plan their trips.

Trace Connections

In ShIn Shanghai, buses have been outfitted with QR codes for riders to register their contact information as they board to ensure efficient contact tracing – if there was an exposure to Covid-19. Although Torontonians may resist providing their information to the TTC/Metrolinx what may be more feasible is providing bus, train and streetcar data to riders. Regardless of how information is shared, this would ensure faster contact tracing between potential exposures and public health.

Flexible Bus Routes

The TTC is running a pickup/drop off bus service; although, there is little public information regarding this service. An additional service that could be introduced is an on-demand shuttle bus. The Beijing Public Transport Group used a mobile app to create new routes for essential employees (in addition to regular routes). After a threshold for demand was surpassed a route was developed based on initial and final destinations. This concept could change the way our bus service runs forever. The information provided from an app like this will provide real time data about commuter needs and alter the very linear routes on major streets we currently have.

 With accurate real time data about rider use habits and vehicle demands transit operators in Toronto can enhance their ability to predict and respond to issues. 

How do you feel about new technology on transit?

Ozora Amin

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