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Another year, another successful Congress & Exhibition...

The UITP World Congress & Exhibition has just wrapped up in Milan, as UITP says arrivederci to more than 2,200 delegates, 280 exhibitors and nearly 300 journalists.
The biennial congress and exhibition is a mélange of business executives, bus and rail giants, policy watchers, bureaucrats, and technology trendsetters.

It’s a strange mix, if you’re not familiar with the sector: but it’s a measure of the strength of the event that those who make the machinery and those who make the policies can be found in the same room, engaged in the same debates and looking for solutions to the same overlapping concerns: stabilizing funding, making the best of existing assets, pushing mobility up the agenda of local leaders, putting customers first and insuring against obsolescence.

See photos from the event here 

Sound business sense

Perhaps one of the most important messages to emerge from these three days of knowledge exchange is the need to engage the business community and make them aware of public transport’s ability to generate shared economic wealth.

Smart cities, data and government

In the much-anticipated smart cities session, speakers extoll the virtues of hard data, departmental cooperation, and sharing ‘smart’ experiences between cities. Smart cities, a catch-all that comes under scrutiny for being both too vague and too hype; is simply about using all the data we generate to better run our lives. Carlo Ratti prefers the term Senseable cities, and his lab at MIT is busy in figuring out how we can visualize the data flows of cities and make them work better. He marveled at the revolution that is the ubiquitous pocket data generator, the smartphone, and said driverless cars have a big role in his vision of a super-efficient sensebale city of the future.

HR, CSR, and planning for risk

Where once UITP congresses were talking shops for technical topics (the 1888 UITP congress, also held in Milan, included a session on which race of horses are best for pulling tram carriages..) the agenda now combines the technical and operational with corporate management and objectives, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) and staff satisfaction. Customer focus has been edging up the agenda for a number of years, but what’s new is how clear now it is to top management in public transport that the customer cannot be treated as an added afterthought. APTA CEO Michael Melaniphy praised the health benefits of public transport, which is an uphill battle in America thanks to a reluctance to renew the infrastructure to make the networks great.

Risk management, integrated from the beginning, involving all the top managers, is embedding itself into corporate agendas. There’s a direct link between being able to predict risk potentials and financial outcomes. It’s the first time UITP has tackled this issue in its congress agenda, and we see that many companies are using this management tool. A trend to watch as it develops in the sector.

Rail, bus and modal choice

The boundaries, we heard, continue to blur between bus and light rail. The biggest concerns for rail are the same as ever: keep costs down, keep service up. This means making sure investments don’t go obsolete. Operators and suppliers share the concerns about the obsolescence of electronics and software. Avoiding having relatively new equipment get useless means joining forces.

News and announcements

Outgoing UITP President Sir Peter Hendy handed the reins to Masaki Ogata, who was pleased with the overwhelming support for his nomination. Before stepping down, Sir Hendy repeated his message: the public transport sector is expected to do more with less. It’s the rallying cry of our time. We can call on decision makers to give us more support, but ultimately, we have to pry ourselves away from depending too much on public funds. We have to find new models to pay for public transport, and talking constantly with the business community is going to be vital. This is Mr. Hendy’s legacy to UITP, and a topic that will no doubt climb higher up the agenda in the coming years.

See all the coverage of the event here.

The next Congress will take place in Montreal under a new name: the Global Public Transport Summit. New name, new higher goals, same, dependable network for learning.

UITP members will receive an Executive Summary of the event in the coming weeks.


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