Thredbo 16 Workshops

A selection of conference papers will be considered for a special edition in Research in Transportation Economics (RETREC).

Workshop 1. Models of Mainstream Public Transport Provision

Chair: Professor John Preston

Rapporteur: Professor Jackie Walters

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This workshop builds on Workshops 2A and 2B of Thredbo 15 which reviewed the factors critical for success in contracting-out models such as key performance indicators (KPIs), incentive and penalty regimes, allocation of risks, and the relationship between authorities and operators. These areas of inquiry continue to be of relevance to the Thredbo Conference Series.

Additionally, this workshop will cover other emerging issues in contracting, such as how the contracting model could be better designed to maximise technology transfer, potentially from international service providers operating in the local market, and other innovative practices deemed to be desirable. Following on a key suggestion of Thredbo 15, this workshop can also touch on the potential for collaboration between operators, municipalities, passenger transport authorities, and other public sector bodies, and what an optimal contract allowing for such collaborations could look like.

Workshop discussions may also centre around other recent developments in this space such as the growing trend of countries moving towards hybrid regimes, for example in applying both tendering and negotiated contracts, and other types of performance-based contract regimes, rather than ‘pure’ competitive tendering models. Moreover, in developing economies, there is also the question of how competition can be best encouraged or performance properly benchmarked where there are few incumbent transport operators and competition for or in the market is traditionally thin. Another emerging development to explore within this space is the role of big data in specifying and measuring KPIs of operators and contract design to facilitate the sharing of big data.

This workshop welcomes papers examining any of the above issues in mature and developing economies. Theoretical and conceptual papers are especially welcome in this workshop, but the relevance to policy-makers, practitioners and service providers needs to be clearly identified.

Workshop 2. Practical Considerations in Implementing Different Institutional Regimes

Chair: Assistant Professor Didier Van de Velde

Rapporteur: Dr Gunnar Alexandersson

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Unlike Workshop 1 which addresses the issues of institutional arrangements in public transport provision from a more theoretical or conceptual perspective, this workshop takes the main themes identified in Workshops 2A and 2B of Thredbo 15 with a focus on distilling the practical aspects of implementing change across different types of regimes from contract to market-initiative-based like open access competition. The practical implication of institutional maturity on contracting issues, such as how contract design and monitoring needs to be adjusted to accommodate different levels of institutional maturity across markets, could be one area for discussion in this workshop.

From the authority and practitioner perspective, an important but usually less reported aspect that can be explored in Workshop 2 will be on the use of tools like contract and competition, such as the development of open access rail services, to achieve a wider set of policy objectives. It is clear that contracting cannot be viewed only in technical/efficiency terms and that competition cannot be viewed only as administrative/regulatory mechanism in mature markets. Hence, the discussion should also take into account the different institutional settings, levels of capital constraints across economies in varying stages of development, and how these differences could potentially prevent the theoretical benefits of various models from being realised.

This workshop will also cover emerging regulatory issues precipitated by globalisation and the rise of trans-national transportation companies. Potential topics to be explored include benefits of and challenges in encouraging or regulating foreign transit operators to participate in the bid process and managing a potential influx of foreign operators.

This workshop welcomes papers examining any of the above issues in mature and developing economies as well as all papers and case studies dealing with trans-national issues. However, the primary focus of these papers should be about practical implementation issues with a view towards maximising benefits from various regimes that have been adopted across different jurisdictions.

Workshop 3. Emerging Business Models and Implications for the Transport Ecosystem

Chair: Professor Rico Merkert

Rapporteur: Mr Yale Wong

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This workshop builds partially on Workshops 7 and 8 of Thredbo 15 but aims to go beyond the data issues to also examine how new and emerging business models, leveraging on advances in digital technology, can enable more efficient transport systems. In the previous workshops, it was noted that the main challenge in implementing big data-related solutions was institutional rather than technical and emerging solutions such as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) are marked by both tension and partnership among government, operator and service provider.

The real-time optimisation of the movement of goods and people is a rapidly growing trend enabled by smart devices and big data. The ubiquity of the smartphone has enabled instantaneous sharing of location information and a multitude of MaaS solutions. Big data also allow the development of a very detailed profile of customer preferences, enabling myriad bespoke combinations of services, including, but not necessarily limited to transport provision, to be packaged to the end-user.

Such abilities have given rise to emerging business models that could greatly transform the transportation sector, both private and public. This transformative potential has spurred companies ranging from app developers to car manufacturers, to invest in this new mobility space. This creates both opportunities and challenges for governments and mainstream operators. On the one hand, such technologies enable real-time and dynamic feedback, presenting opportunities for operators and authorities to shape behaviour using data and real-time optimisation of travel plans. On the other hand, such innovation is often driven by the private sector, and some might say venture capitalists, which begs the question of how this space should be governed, for example in policies encouraging the growth of novel solutions and in the need for an optimal public-private integration framework to achieve better societal outcomes.

This workshop welcomes case studies and theoretical papers on the emergence of new business models from the developer, operator and end-user point-of-view, especially papers on new opportunities to enhance commuter experience and efficiency of the overall public transport system, and all suitable contractual frameworks for large-scale implementation of such systems. It could also explore how these emerging models may lead to a re-balancing of fare revenue for the transit operator and the ‘middleman’ provider and the resulting implications on the sustainability of legacy systems. Papers examining complementarities and substitution effects between these emerging models and traditional public transport systems across the range of institutional arrangements and contexts are also welcome.

This workshop is distinguished from Workshop 5 by the emphasis on the transformative potential of these new business models. Any discussion on regulatory issues will be kept to the minimal.

Workshop 4. Realising the Potential Benefits of Demand-Responsive Travel

Chair: Professor Graham Currie

Rapporteur: Dr Timothy Wong

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Demand-Responsive Travel (DRT) is a dynamic form of public transport with flexible routes and schedules to better match capacity to time and space varying passenger demand, in contrast to the more traditional way of service provision based on fixed routes and schedules. DRT may be distinguished from the broader concept of on-demand, point-to-point mobility concepts like ride hailing and ride share by its focus on service obligation and social inclusion. This workshop will focus on the opportunities and challenges of ‘mainstreaming’ such an emerging mode into existing public transport systems.

A key topic to be discussed would be the user benefits and user acceptability of DRT. This should include a discussion on the potential benefits that DRT could bring and the objectives which transit operators or authorities hope to achieve through the use of the DRT. Taking into account the intended role for DRT within the public transport system, this workshop also discusses all issues related to the implementation of the DRT. For example, what might be an appropriate ownership structure for DRT assets and how might such assets be more efficiently used in times of lower demand? How to design the contract and key performance indicators for a DRT operator when their services are by nature, irregular and flexible? How to determine the level of required service and to maintain it? What is the role of DRT vis-à-vis the existing fixed route/fixed schedule public transport network and operator(s)? What guidance is there to help decision makers determine the appropriate service areas for DRT and to pick the ‘best’ DRT operator for the job?

Practical issues with respect to the implementation of DRT will also discussed. Some issues to be considered include potential barriers that could prevent DRT (e.g., regulatory, policy, organisational, financial, technology, etc.) from becoming more widely adopted, and the organisational and business models that best develop and retain DRT ridership, taking into consideration that prospects for DRT may vary according to different institutional and geographic settings (e.g., rural or urban, regional or local, national etc.).

Workshop 5. How Much Regulation should Disruptive Transportation Technologies be Subject to?

Chair: Göran Smith

Rapporteur: Dr Walter Theseira

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The advent of disruptive technologies in the transport sector like ride-hailing services has had a transformative effect on the transport sector, notably the taxi industry. The resultant reaction in the transport sector has thus been varied, ranging from acceptance in some cities to open protests in others. As noted in Workshop 7 of Thredbo 15, there exists a tension between policy formulation and operators which need to be carefully balanced in order to ensure both good market outcomes and user experience. The workshop will discuss new service offerings that have been supported by digital technology (in contrast to dominated by the technology agenda) as well as recognising that societal objectives must not be put at risk as a result of encouraging market competition.

The workshop will discuss many of the regulatory issues associated with disruptive technologies, like ride hailing, ride-sharing, bike-sharing or even Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), with a focus on the trade-offs involved. As mobility solutions powered by these technologies are on the ascendant in many countries, authorities are challenged to find the right balance in a regulatory framework that ensures adequate and affordable service delivery and a fair and competitive landscape, and allowing new solutions, practices and even entrants to emerge without stifling innovation.

This workshop is also keen to explore the potential benefits for a regulatory framework, against no regulation, in specific domain areas such as data collection, data mining, data sharing and data privacy. The workshop also welcome papers from these industries on their insights on self-regulation or alternative regulation frameworks. The workshop could explore these issues from all relevant regulator, industry and consumer perspectives.

Finally, the workshop will also discuss longer-term issues like the trade-off between efficiency and equity. For example, given differences in scale and network effects across countries and cities, what should the optimal number of operators be? Further, given the strong network effects inherent in the industry, how should authorities ensure that markets are contestable, competitiveness is retained and that the interests of the consumer and of the worker/individual service provider are well served by the key player(s)? Other long-term potential externalities of disruptive technologies on mode share, traffic levels, congestion, emissions, energy consumption and urban sprawl should also be explored in the workshop.  

This workshop welcomes all papers, theoretical or otherwise, and case studies examining regulatory issues related to service quality, competition, efficiency and equity of all types of disruptive technologies.

Workshop 6. Better Service Delivery through Modal Integration

Chair: Professor Corinne Mulley

Rapporteur: Dr Barbara Yen

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This workshop builds on Workshop 1 of Thredbo 15 which focused on integrating across different transport modes for a better and more seamless user experience. This workshop will extend the discussion of the previous workshop by including some discussion on the first mile and last mile connectivity of the public transport system.

As noted in the previous workshop, transit planners should move beyond a discussion on which type of transport mode to achieving a seamless integration of modes for an enhanced user experience which in turn requires physical, organisation and data integration. This workshop continues the discussion on identifying and designing opportunities for integration, as well as the methods for managing the engagement required for buy-in. This includes the practicalities of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) pilots or implementations but not their business models (see Workshop 3).

Additionally, given the importance of the first mile and last mile connectivity to expanding the potential catchment of public transport, related issues will also be discussed in this workshop. For example, how would the first mile and last mile connectivity and integration of such modes enhance the overall transport system? What do users expect of first-last mile connectivity? How should the quality of first-last mile connectivity be measured? The fast adoption of micro mobility vehicles such as e-bikes and e-scooters, not least through organised sharing solutions, further highlights the need to discuss these questions.

Aligned to this is how new modes of public transport such as semi-rapid transit, enabled by autonomous or other new technologies, could be integrated with existing modes for better customer experience and economies of scale. As a corollary, regulation or contract design to ensure better intermodal connectivity and big data applications which could help quantify or predict ‘soft’ KPIs such as customer satisfaction could also be discussed in this workshop.

This workshop welcomes all papers examining these issues, as well as case studies on experiences of modal integration and improving first-last mile connectivity.

Workshop 7. Assessing the Wider Benefits of Public Transport Projects

Chair: Professor John Stanley

Rapporteur: Associate Professor Janet Stanley

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This workshop builds on Workshop 6 of Thredbo 15 which focused on studying benefits measurement. The workshop highlighted, among other things, that while advances have been made in identifying, understanding and measuring the wider social and economic impacts of public transport, more cross-disciplinary work and case studies are needed to bridge existing knowledge gaps.

This workshop will continue to explore longstanding issues in benefits measurement. How measurable are the benefits, including monetary valuations thereof, that may arise from the entire network? Given that the importance of first and last mile connection to the accessibility of the public transport system and to the potential catchment area, how should we improve the measurement for benefits in order to take into account the first and last mile connection? This might involve a greater focus on the whole trip and value of the activity for which the trip is intended. In addition, given the importance of public transport to the environment, social inclusion and to retail and commercial business, the workshop could also discuss ways to measure these and other positive (and negative) externalities into the benefits computation.

The growth in autonomous vehicles (AVs), including public transport vehicles, raises questions about valuation of benefits and costs, including associated externalities (e.g., urban sprawl that might flow from AVs). For example, given the ubiquity of wi-fi and other data roaming services, it is now very possible to make travel time productive (at least on public transport for now, but extendable to personal autonomous vehicles in future). This will have implications on valuation of traditional travel time savings and associated cost benefit analyses (CBAs). This again raises a question of whether we might be better to focus more on the activities for which trips are used, rather than on the time spent travelling.

Finally, this workshop will also look into the social benefits of inclusion, primarily in developing economies on excluded users, specifically with a view to directly including such benefits into value appraisal and decision-making (i.e. suitable methodologies). This remains a perennial issue in countries with large populations of excluded users, and despite the fact that issues of inclusion/exclusion have been dealt with in many previous Thredbo workshops, the question of how to take the last step towards appraisal methodology has not yet been fully resolved. It includes issues such as the value of informal transport and the role of mobility/transport in community development.

This workshop welcomes papers and case studies that involve new methodologies for benefits computation and the implementation, as well as implication of such methodologies. More case studies on the role of CBA and wider impact analysis within the political economy of organisations and decision making bodies could be very helpful in identifying best practices and shortcomings in the way the appraisal process informs (or doesn’t inform) decision making. Papers across disciplines comparing and evaluating the various methodologies are also welcome, as are papers from/about developing economies.

Workshop 8. Beyond the Farebox: Sustainable Funding of Public Transport by Better Understanding Service Values

Chair: Professor Roger Vickerman

Rapporteur: Dr Poon Joe Fai

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This workshop builds on Workshop 5 of Thredbo 15 which discussed ways to bridge the benefits funding gap. The previous workshop had established a recommended formula for setting public transport fares and suggested focusing on land value and road pricing as a funding means. As there are some synergies with Workshop 7 (above), it is possible for some topics to be discussed in a joint opening and/or closing session with Workshop 7 participants to retain the benefits of inter-disciplinary interaction, while providing space for more in-depth technical work on certain issues.

Nevertheless, the primary focus of this workshop is to discuss innovative ways of funding the transport network, potentially through non-fare revenue. It will also explore various approaches of extracting non-fare revenue to fund the public transport system.

In many metropolitan areas, the revenue generated from commercial and retail spaces linked to the public transport system constitutes a major source of revenue for the public transport operator. In the case of the Hong Kong transport operator, this revenue accounts for the majority of the operators’ profits and allows the operator to remain profitable despite charging relatively low and affordable fares. This system, however, could create conflicting objectives as it could lead some operators to direct resources away from maintaining transport infrastructure and improving service delivery to boosting non-fare revenues. It is this concern that has prompted other authorities to consider a segregation of roles between the operator of the rail system and the operator of the non-fare component.

Given that transport authorities have had differing success with different non-fare revenue models, the discussion should also focus on the social, economic and business context that determine the success of each non-fare revenue model. Is there a tipping point beyond which economies of scope turn into diseconomies and what are the factors that contribute to this? Likewise, the workshop could also explore the desirability, or lack thereof, of bundling transport services into a wider package of services such as telco plans, utilities, and media consumption, for example.

This workshop also welcomes papers on exploring an optimal capital structure for public transport investments that have long gestation periods and long life cycles (e.g., through long term borrowing), as well as social and environmental benefits of public transport. A more indirect access to private capital, for example, public sector collaboration and contracting with Transportation Network Companies like Uber to meet social equity objectives such as providing service to lower demand or lower income areas, and the implications of such an approach, could also be explored. Arising from the advances in assessing the benefits highlighted in Workshop 7, papers demonstrating the application of the benefit-funding connection are also welcome.