Back to the future of public transport

On January 12, 1901, Collier’s Weekly – a United States weekly magazine that features news, politics and fiction – published an artwork by Fred Strothmann. An artist and a cartoonist for the magazine, Strothmann envisioned the future of transportation in 2001: Flying buses and trams, sky stations, and private zeppelins instead of cars. We may not have met Strothman’s vision for public transport in 2001, but what if we had?


Imagine the planning puzzles you’ll face if your fleet of trams and buses suddenly had wings and the ability to travel by air. You will need to collaborate with air traffic control centers that have the enormous job of managing the private zeppelins; you will need to minimize disruptions for increased punctuality; you will also need an integrated system to ensure safety when navigating through traffic, both on ground and up in the sky.

What this situation calls for is a system that helps with your decision-making – one that alerts you of potential disruptions and shows you the consequences of decisions before you make them. Sounds like something that will only exist in years to come? Well, not quite. This optimization technology is already here.

This technology addresses the need for companies to handle disruptions as quickly and efficiently as possible by rapidly re-optimizing plans and proposing alternative solutions. The system should be able to reschedule and re-optimize in real-time when unexpected repair is required, while keeping in mind all constraints to ensure safety. Imagine if an air transport vehicle is rescheduled onto the same route as another vehicle or if the system assigns a driver without the right certifications for a particular vehicle? A breakdown up in the air will lead to disastrous consequences.

Sky-high challenges on the horizon

When do you decide to expand your transport network skywards? At which point do you know that you need more than ground service to meet your customer satisfaction score target? How do you make sure your workforce is large enough and has the right set of skills? How do you forecast training and hiring?

Futuristic Monorail

Flexibility is the key to the future

This image tells us one thing: You can have a vision, a strategy and a lot of dreams, but unless you’ve got a time-travelling DeLorean, no one is able to predict the future. What you need is to implement an integrated planning system that has the flexibility to deal with all kinds of future situations and sky-high challenges, not to mention private zeppelins, flying trams, floating trains and possibly a whole lot of other public transport surprises in the coming 100 years.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future (1985)

Lessons learned from the past

Well, considering a bolt of lightning is probably not going to strike the clock tower at precisely 10:04pm next Saturday night, you will not be sent back to the future. But you can learn from the visions of people from the past. Some of the things to keep in mind:

  • A clear vision for the future can be a guideline but there’s no guarantee that it’ll be accurate
  • Predicting the future seems impossible, but with the right system, we can see the outcome of a decision prior to acting on it. The system can even ensure the right amount of resources to meet forecast demand
  • Flexibility is critical to the future of public transport, because anything can happen

Have you started preparing for the future, today?

Learn more about efficient planning for higher levels of safety, punctuality and customer service.