BAI Communications (BAI), a global communications infrastructure provider, today published a new report revealing an intensified need for continuous connectivity on public transport systems amid the global COVID-19 recovery. In 2021, global transit passengers indicated record levels of support for government investments in wireless and fibre network infrastructure (93%), 5G networks (89%) and technology applications and services designed to make transport safer and a more connected journey.

The Connectivity outlook report 2021 highlights findings from a recent study commissioned by BAI which surveyed more than 2,500 rail, subway, light rail, bus and ferry transit passengers across five major cities: New York, Sydney, Toronto, Hong Kong and London. In its third year, the report is designed to provide cities, transport operators and governments with information to help understand passengers’ expectations and support sustained, long-term growth in public transport system use.

This year’s report indicates that passengers want three core things: improved safety and cleanliness, advanced technology to support high-quality connectivity on-the-go, and increased spending on communications infrastructure to improve the overall transit experience. Among the top findings:

Investment in safety and cleanliness critical to COVID-19 recovery, meeting evolved passenger expectations    

Post-pandemic, passengers’ expectations around safety remain high and cleanliness as part of the transit experience is only increasing, now outranking reliability, on-time services and ease of use for the first time in the BAI report’s three-year history. The research suggests that having the right operational and consumer-facing technology in place to address issues such as sanitation, overcrowding and crime prevention can help governments better-promote the health and well-being of travelers, and provide greater confidence to passengers as they return to more regular use.

  • 83% of passengers expect public transport systems to be safe or clean.
  • Just over half (51%) of passengers say they would take public transport more if it were safer, a significant jump from 42% in 2020.
  • 68% of passengers would like to see connectivity-related safety features in the public transportation system.
  • 43% of passengers increased their use of public transport thanks to safety and public health technologies offered in their cities.

An expedited need for continuous connectivity & technology innovation is key to enhancing the post-pandemic travel experience

In an always-on, work-from-anywhere environment, transit systems are increasingly expected to provide a seamless and increasingly connected experience for passengers, a fact that has only intensified in the aftermath of COVID-19. From stronger Wi-Fi signals to enable remote work during commutes to contactless booking and payment applications and services, public transport users want better technologies to enhance their trips. Additionally, passengers in all cities noted an increased desire in 2021 to use apps to alert them to environmental conditions along the commute, such as temperature or pollution levels. They are also not opposed to their anonymised data being used to personalise their experience and improve transport service overall.

  • 91% of passengers think seamless mobile coverage above and below ground is a feature of a world-class city.
  • 81% would consider switching mobile carriers to get better service on transport systems, a 12% increase since 2019.
  •  Around three-quarters of working respondents would use public transport to get to and from meetings more often if they had fast, reliable connectivity to work and access the cloud on-the-go.
  • 83% are comfortable with their anonymised data being used to improve public transport systems; 91% are comfortable with their data being used to deliver customised alerts about service changes, disruptions or delays.
  • 52% say contactless payment options have inspired them to increase their use of public transport.

Largest year-over-year increase in passenger support for spending to improve connectivity and digital infrastructures

BAI’s research suggests that passengers recognise the critical role of transport networks as an enabler of connectivity across cities and increasingly support government spending toward improvements.

  • Most passengers (93%) support government investment in new and reliable wireless and fibre networks for transport. Further, 89% would support their city investing in a 5G network, up from 83% in 2020.
  •  Nearly all (95%) believe network evolution using connectivity and data AI could deliver better transport services.
  • 49% would pay more for public transport that offered uninterrupted mobile coverage and high-speed internet across the entire trip – a consecutive increase during the past three years.
  • Approximately 88% would take advantage of a fast, secure and robust internet or data connection during their trips. Almost half (49%) would use their connection to stream video while 37% and 36% would use the network to upload documents to the cloud and participate video calls and conferences, respectively.

Brendan O’Reilly, Group Chief Technology Officer, BAI Communications said, “While the global pandemic is far from over, cities around the world are taking the necessary steps to fully re-open and welcome its citizens back to a ‘new’ normal. For major metro areas such as New York, Sydney, Toronto, Hong Kong and London, public transport systems are a critical component of daily life, serving as a critical lifeline to the local economy. Nearly two years following the global lockdown, current and returning transport passengers have a whole new set of expectations and demands for ridership – from improved safety, better and more reliable internet connectivity to mobile applications and services that make the ride easier than ever before. Enhanced connectivity and continued communications infrastructure investments by transport operators and government authorities will be vital to achieving a convenient, desirable, and safe experience for all passengers, including the millions of people globally who will be returning to the office for the first time.”

Download the Connectivity outlook report 2021 below.