The car now dominates our travel outside most major cities. This is particularly the case in the suburbs and smaller towns and public transport use remains an exception. In fact, in many situations and in particularly in the UK, non-metropolitan bus demand is continuing a long historic decline. There are a number of initiatives and potential solutions that are being applied to deal with these issues.
One set of initiatives looks to use smaller vehicles, information technology and a whole journey approach to provide a new way of looking at local transport. It builds upon initiatives that are also being seen in the shared transport and taxi markets. An approach to this Small Vehicle Transport System (SVTS) would seek to complement the existing successful modes of transport rather than seek a winner takes all approach to the introduction of a new mode.
A debate within these SVTS proposals is the level of independence and commercial sustainability of the resulting service. SVTS in Manchester is proposed by Simply Connect, to be a fully commercial business, enabled by an innovative crowdfunding model, with explicit social values and a stated desire to work with the local transport authority in order to develop a comprehensive and world leading overall mobility solution. In a denser urban context such as Manchester, SVTS would provide mobility for socially excluded members of the community as well as plug gaps in the public transport network of mainly radial commuter routes.
By making the solution software open source we can further the needs of these SVTS models in other jurisdictions and countries. Open-sourcing enables efficient, flexible and trusted ICT to be developed at relatively low cost, then encourages improvements to suit specific local conditions, new service opportunities and system expansion.
Open Source also maximises the attractiveness of the service to authorities (by helping address ICT procurement issues around vendor lock-in) and to potential users (who benefit from service integration on an open platform). The inherent advantages of an open source platform would therefore also attract greater global take up of these potentially important mobility solutions, greater innovation in design as well as encourage local tailoring of solutions to meet individual needs.