Why is Cubic launching this vision now?
We believe the time is right. The long-term market trends for the transportation systems market will be dictated by a changing world that is contending with a booming global population, where metropolitan and suburban areas are morphing into mega-cities and the distance between cities, towns and commercial and industrial districts is shortening.
What's more, we increasingly understand the environmental impact of our journey choices and the need, at a macro-level, to reduce the environmental impact of transportation. All of this adds up to more transport journeys and the pressing need to think about how we will all go about our journeys in the future.
We recognize that in the future, governments, regulators and planners will come under significant pressure to identify ways to build new, and increase existing, transport infrastructure capacity within major city constraints. We also recognize that this alone will not be enough to meet the challenges of the future.
We expect that all transport stakeholders will be under growing pressure to find ways of predicting, influencing and then managing transport demand so that it can be best met and optimized, safely, with existing transport supply capacity. It is clear that this will require the capture of higher-quality, truly integrated, real-time and concise information about how a city’s population is choosing to move, and most importantly – why?
Why is it important to have information about how a city’s population chooses to move?
A person’s journey choice is going to be influenced by three principal factors; the overall cost, the timeliness and the reliability of the journey. In the future we can expect to add a fourth dimension – environmental impact. If transport stakeholders can understand, at a macro and micro level, which factors are the most prevalent in causing congestion points and bottlenecks in their cities, they can take appropriate action to vary the factors to influence demand and therefore maximize supply. To do this they will require more dynamic systems.
Attempts are already being made to address this. Public transport operators have, for many years, attempted to level demand using peak and off-peak fares. In private transport modes, particularly motor vehicles, regulators have tried to manage demand by increasing parking costs, introducing toll systems, and in more recent year’s variable tolls, and most recently through congestion charging. These solutions are playing an important role but to be effective the whole-of-transport needs to be integrated.
Where does NextCity fit in?
Cubic’s vision is for a fully-integrated, whole-of-transport, journey and payments management system founded on the core competencies Cubic has developed in mass transit Automatic Fare Collection (AFC).
For many years Cubic has been deploying smart-enabled integrated systems. Agencies and operators that have deployed Cubic systems have seen the major benefits that integrated electronic payments systems have had on their transport operations. Taking payments away from points of boarding, such as at the driver’s door of a bus, has had a tangible impact on journey speed and reliability, with some agencies having to re-write bus timetables as a result of reduced boarding times. However, the real benefit has been derived from integrated information and integrated fare structures.
Is NextCity a payment or information-based solution – or both?
Electronic payment equals electronic journey transactions which in turn equals data, which, with the right system, becomes information. Cities and regions that have an integrated AFC system have been able to access a wealth of data on what their ridership is doing – where they come from, where they go, the routes they take and the times at which they travel. Better understanding of demand allows for better understanding of supply and capacity needs.
Agencies with integrated AFC systems have also been able to offer integrated, more dynamic fare structures. Cubic systems deployed around the world offer a myriad of integrated fare policies directed at rewarding passengers that utilize the whole public transport system (i.e., all modes) with free transfers, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly products, pay-as-you go usage that "caps" at the equivalent daily or weekly product, loyalty of usage discounts over a variety of time periods, dynamic and configurable peak/off-peak pricing – the list is virtually endless. The commonality is that the integrated fare policy exists to optimise the demand-supply of the whole public transport network and as a result, in all of these cities, the public transport fare structure can be extremely complex without providing any burden to the passenger who can “set and forget” and be reassured they will get the best fare based on their usage.
This makes public transport the best starting point for NextCity. The learning and benefits derived in public transport can now be taken in to the whole-of-transport environment and integrate with private modes of transport such as cycles, motor vehicles (parking, tolling, congestion charging, electronic refueling), long-distance rail and commuter flights, etc.
What is the core functionality of NextCity and its subsystems?
NextCity will be a platform of Cubic systems that can integrate with the payment and information systems of other modes of transport without the need to replace any of the existing infrastructures. The NextCity platform is being designed as an integration platform that architecturally sits above the existing legacy payment and information systems and will interface with those systems rather than replace them.
The NextCity platform will be developed from a range of Cubic systems, continuing the evolution of the NextFare back-office solution to NextAccount, which will eventually become the integration engine that talks to existing modal payment systems. The integration engine will then be integrated with NextLedger, a settlement and clearing tool, NextContact, a CRM portal and NextInfo, a data-warehousing, mining and information delivery system. The NextAaccount payments and integration engine will leverage Cubic’s ability, proven within public transport, to configure extremely complex and multi-model fare structures and provide transport stakeholders with the ability to charge for the use of the public and private transport assets on a whole-of-transport basis.
All of the benefits and flexibility of the public transport fare structure could now be extended to include cycle schemes, tolling, parking, congestion charging and even taxi rides, without the need for major infrastructure replacement. Customer accounts within NextAccount could be linked such that the fare policy could apply to a whole family’s journey choices, not just an individual. When linked with a settlement and clearing system, NextLedger, the city would also be able to automate the monetary flows and reconciliations between all of the city’s transport operators.
NextContact will be a web, mobile and smart-phone enabled for their whole population to receive push and pull information on a customized basis for all modes of transport, both public and private. This will enable cities to educate their population on a real-time basis of the cost, timeliness, reliability and environmental impact of their journey choices. NextInfo will provide dynamic, integrated, configurable and real-time valuable and integrated information on all journeys occurring within the city. Creating a holistic view of a city’s transport journeys will enable transport stakeholders to be able to understand the current demand for, and use of, the existing transport infrastructure and best determine where excess capacity exists and where new capacity is needed.
Is Next an acronym?
No, it is not an acronym. The ‘Next’ terminology began with Cubic’s NextFare platform. NextFare is a suite of hardware and software products that are designed to work as a system and together function as an end-to-end mass-public transport fare collection system for multiple transport agencies. The NextFare platform has been deployed in over a dozen cities across the world, and the Nextcity platform will be an evolution of the NextFare platform.
The ‘Next’ in NextFare or NextCity represents the "next generation" technology of which the platform is comprised.
What expertise does Cubic have that makes you think that you can do this?
For over 30 years, Cubic has been at the forefront of automated fare collection technology for the world’s mass transit systems and our experience now spans the globe. We have installed automated fare collection systems in over 40 countries, across North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Cities and regions that have deployed a Cubic integrated AFC system for their public transport have been able to access a wealth of data on what their ridership is doing – where they come from, where they go, the route they take and the times at which they travel. They have also been able to offer integrated, more dynamic fare structures. Cubic systems deployed around the world offer a wide range of integrated fare policies directed at rewarding passengers that utilize the whole public transport system (i.e. all modes) with free transfers, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly products, pay-as-you go usage that "caps" at the equivalent daily or weekly product, loyalty of usage discounts over a variety of time periods, dynamic and configurable peak/off-peak pricing, the list is endless.
Our regional fare management systems allow for the integration of financial and operational data across multiple agencies, multiple modes (rail, bus, ferries, parking), and support a variety of commercial partners including retailers, employers, municipalities, and governmental agencies.
Our operational and customer support systems incorporate facilities for the dissemination of real time data to both fixed and mobile assets via web, wireless, and fixed line communications.
These facilities provide an ideal foundation for expansion into a "whole of transport" perspective by integrating other modes of transport, such as cycles, motor vehicles (parking, tolling, congestion charging, electronic refueling) and long-distance rail/commuter flights into a whole of transport information and fare environment. In all cases the fare and information structure of the public transport platform is more complex than those of other modal systems and is an appropriate starting point. This is exactly where Cubic is presently the world leader and we therefore believe we are uniquely qualified to drive this vision forward.
Where does Cubic already do this?
The NextCity vision, is exactly that - a vision. It will take time for the various challenges that need to be overcome on both the policy and technology sides for the vision to become a reality. However, Cubic fundamentally believes in the vision, and, in this changing world, the need for cities to look across their whole transport assets for efficiency and to alleviate congestion. We are actively working on solving the technology challenges so that we can enable governments and agencies to overcome the policy challenges – just as we have been doing in public transport for the past 30 years.
The component parts of NextCity are in different stages of development.
The first step of the evolution from NextFare to NextCity is to develop a back-office which will retain the intelligence of a public transport payments back-office but will also be able to integrate transactions from the back-offices of other modal systems. Cubic has developed "NextAccount" which is an evolution of NextFare that can accept various forms of payment (i.e. a bank card, transport smart card, NFC phone) by treating them as an account. NextAccount also enables the linking of several discreet accounts (e.g. open stored value, closed stored value, and pre-paid benefits) to a single token and/or master account. These facilities can be extended to support linked parking accounts, tolling accounts, electric vehicle charging accounts, and congestion charging accounts. Accordingly, NextAccount will be further evolved so that it will become the integration and payments processing engine of NextCity. NextAccount is currently piloting with the PATCO transit agency in the Northeast of the United States.
NextLedger is the component of NextCity which will automatically record and action the necessary accounting and financial transactions to ensure that transport operators receive the accurate revenue allocation for the use of their network. NextLedger is an integrated suite of Cubic central system products and COTS 3rd party products and has already been deployed in Brisbane, Australia, and San Francisco in the United States.
NextContact is a suite of web, IVR, call centre and back office capabilities, deployed separately or as an integrated capability. We currently have deployed a suite of these capabilities in San Francisco and Boston, and soon will do so in Sydney.
The other two components of NextCity are already in the design stages.
When will we see NextCity first implemented?
This is a difficult question to answer because it is not entirely within Cubic’s control.
Cubic expect to have developed, tested, piloted and deployed the four constituent parts of NextCity in the next three years. It is unlikely that there will be a single "big bang" deployment of NextCity; rather, it will be a gradual introduction of the various components depending on the existing maturity of the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) within any given city. By far the biggest challenge for all cities will be aligning the interests of all operators, be they public, private or public-private, to enable the integration of their transport infrastructure, and the policies that govern that transport infrastructure, to make better use of the overall transport asset – which may mean incentivizing or deterring patronage away from any given mode.
It is clear that city planners, transport authorities and government are already debating how to overcome this challenge. In parallel with developing the enabling technology, Cubic will be contributing to this debate with the goal of creating an environment ready for the technology by the time that the technology is ready.
How can I implement NextCity when I have many legacy systems?
For cities that do not have a legacy payments and information system for any of their modes of transport, Cubic, or a Cubic partner will be able to deploy a modal system as part of the introduction of NextCity but this will not be a prerequisite of the introduction of the NextCity platform.
The NextCity platform is being designed as an integration platform that architecturally sits above the existing legacy payment and information systems and will interface with those systems rather than replace them. The NextAccount application of NextCity will interface real-time with the payments and information applications in any given modal back-office and will aggregate all passenger journey transactions for the purposes of delivering integrated fares and information across all transport.
What is the benefit to me if I am a city planner or represent a government department?
City and regional governments all over the world are dealing with the economic and social issues created by congested transport assets. They are also under pressure to deal with the environmental impact that their population creates through their transport usage and the burden on the public purse of continuing to subsidize, to varying degrees, different modes of transport.
City planners have to plan for the transport demand of a growing, urbanizing global population and often have to do so within planning constraints that make tangibly increasing the size of a city’s transport asset extremely difficult.
The NextCity platform will empower governments and planners in three key ways:
- A clear and whole picture. It will create a real-time and dynamic "whole of transport" picture of what the population is choosing to do with their journey - where they come from, where they go, the route and mode they take, if they transfer from one mode to another and the times at which they travel. This will enable government and planners to have a clear picture of what is driving demand for the city’s transport asset and plan for the infrastructure projects which will have the overall most significant impact on congestion, the environment and cost to the taxpayer.
- Real-time, dynamic and integrated charging policies. Government will be able to create an overall whole of transport real-time and dynamic fare and charging policy which directly relates the choice of journey to the cost that journey choice has on congestion, the environment and the overall efficiency of the city’s transport asset. This means that government and city planners will be able to manage and influence demand, to some extent, through a much more joined-up and dynamic charging structure than they would ever be able to feasibly create without integrated systems.
- Incident and crisis management. The intellect gathered, through NextCity, over time will mean that governments are better informed about how and why their population moves and the factors that can influence and manage this demand. This means that during times of incidents and crisis, not only will government have an integrated platform from which to manage the incident, they will be better informed about the segments of the population they need to inform and manage and what factors will be prevalent in managing the incident.
What is the benefit to me as a transport operator?
Whether they are operators of a toll road, a major city bus operator or a metropolitan rail operator, all transport operators are under pressure to make the most efficient use of their transport assets. Without doubt, the biggest challenge is dealing with fluid demand for the transport asset on an almost hourly basis. The supply capacity of a given transport asset is fixed in the short to medium term and can only be modified on a long-term basis (i.e., over a period of years). This means that all transport operators contend with congestion and overcrowding during peak travel periods – which reduces customer satisfaction and excess capacity during off-peak travel periods – which is an inefficient use of the transport asset. If supply cannot be easily shifted to match demand, then a more optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction can only be achieved when demand is shifted to match supply.
Depending on the maturity of their existing legacy payment and information systems, transport operators already have the ability to offer some level of time-based dynamic pricing/fares for the use of their transport asset. They will also have some level of information in relation to the demand for their operation and their patronage.
The NextCity platform will enrich this further for transport operators in the following ways:
- Further leveling of demand. The NextCity integrated payments and information platform will enable the better use of a city’s overall transport asset by encouraging transfers or modal shifts at appropriate points. This means better matching of demand and supply (capacity) across all modes and will assist operators dealing with the peaks and troughs they currently experience on a daily basis.
- More in-depth patronage information. The NextCity platform will be able to capture much more information about the patronage across the whole transport asset. This will mean that each individual operator will be able to understand more about their patronage. At present they know about the behaviors of their patronage from the point where they first enter the modal system to the point where they exit, whereas with the NextCity platform they will be able to better understand the behaviors before and after they see the passenger. This will assist with capacity and route planning.
- Shared service platform. Over time it is anticipated that individual transport operators will be able to retire component pieces of their legacy systems – for example the CRM portal, data warehouse and clearinghouse. This will drive cost savings for all operators by leveraging a single shared service platform.
What is the benefit to me if I am a passenger and traveler?
A person’s journey choice is generally influenced by three factors: the overall cost, the timeliness and the reliability of the journey mode. In the future we can expect the environmental impact to become a fourth factor. In many cases passengers are not well informed about how well the various transport options available to them compare across these factors. In addition, on any given day, the comparison of the journey choices can differ real-time depending on what is going on in the city in that particular day.
The NextCity platform will improve the experience of all passengers and travelers in three key ways:
- More informed passengers. The NextCity platform will be able to perform real-time point-to-point calculations for the cost, timeliness, reliability and environmental impact of all transport options meaning that passengers will be better informed and therefore make their journeys easier.
- More equitable charging and reduced congestion. The Nextcity platform will be able to offer more equitable charging for the use of all of transport based on how an individual or family is choosing to use a whole city’s transport asset – those that help contribute to a better society will be able to receive financial benefits for doing so and the whole city will benefit from reduced congestion and quicker journey times.
- Convenience of a single account. The NextCity platform will provide passengers and travelers with a single, whole of transport payments account meaning that no more will passengers need to maintain an account associated with a transport smartcard, one or more toll accounts, a congestion account and various methods of paying for parking. It will be integrated, seamless and convenient for the traveller.