In my last blog for our E21C Project (now called Tomorrow Makers) I said I’d write another update in May. Well, perhaps it was fate or just the sheer amount of work we covered in the project – but I’ve only just had a chance to sit down and write!
Over the last year, The E21C Journeys team have been trying to improve decision making for medium distance journeys (10-50 miles) by understanding the role information plays in shaping people’s travel decisions. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so let me break it down a bit and highlight some of our research too.
Our research focussed, not just on the types of journeys made or the frequency of them, but also on the wider factors that influence our travel choices and behaviours. Some of these factors include simple things like timetables and the consistency of the information that is put on information platforms.
We also tried to understand the psychology of human decision making and how our decisions are often clouded or made more urgent by emotions. We looked at the role that trust played in people’s decision making and found that we actually trust the information that comes from each other far more than any other source, especially transport companies!
As the project was called Engineers for the 21st Century, we were also trying to think about technology – smart phones, smart information, social media, crowdsourcing, location based services... the list goes on but hopefully you get the picture.
Our challenge was to gather all these inputs, influences and insights and use Forum’s tried and trusted innovations process to understand the problem and then to spot gaps and develop potential solutions. Not quite as easy as it sounds.
Being a diverse group, we had some interesting discussions and some differing opinions, but all in the spirit of understanding and enhancing information for transport users. We agreed to focus on business travel as we could all relate to it and research pointed to it as a gap in the market.
So we set about bringing our research, insights together, with the help of our wise steering group, and try to identify a solution which could produce better information both for travellers and for businesses. Based on our research, we thought the tool should enable business travellers to feedback their journey experiences and share travel stories, whilst carrying out the more usually tasks journey planning and ticket booking. We feel this blend of real user experience as well as timetabled information was unique and will offer users and businesses an enriched travel tool, making business travel more efficient, sustainable and user focussed. You can find out more information on the tool itself here.
Our project culminated in October with a presentation to industry experts and senior leaders across the sustainability sector – a somewhat daunting but really rewarding opportunity and I think we all managed to do our hard work justice. At least I hope we did!
Reflecting on the project over the last few months and to write this blog has been interesting. What did I learn? Are there things I’d change? Yes, I think so. And would I encourage organisations to join the newly named Tomorrow Makers? Absolutely! Working with Forum was a fantastic and refreshing experience. They encourage progressive, positive thinking, challenge the status quo and they truly believe in their mission.
Will Spurr is Network Services ITSRG Senior Advisor from the Highways Agency. This is a guest blog. The views expressed are those of the author, and are not necessarily endorsed by Forum for the Future