Now is Canada's time to shine
In July 2020, I had the privilege of speaking at the Urban Transit Infrastructure National Symposium held . . . . online (of course!) It was an interesting experience to speak during these times of the Covid pandemic, and a timely opportunity to talk about a topic that is at the forefront of everybody’s mind in our industry these days:
Is Public Transportation dead?
It’s easy to go to that dark thought: Ridership is down at staggering levels. Transit agencies across the world are losing millions -- on a weekly basis!
But, in the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” -- and I, for one, am one of those who believes that public transportation will rebound.
The demographics show this. Demand for public transportation will continue to grow as Canada’s population and immigration reaches record levels. It will double over the next 50 years. But we don’t have the space, especially in our urban centers, to accommodate this, and the cost of single-owner cars will continue to increase.
Even though our economy is taking a hit, we will need a strong transportation network to help return to economic growth. There is one inarguable fact: people need to get together – and people want to move. By nature, as human beings, we are meant to be mobile. If we’ve learned anything, being constrained on anything – whether it be a 500 sq. ft apartment, or a 5000 sq. ft. house – feels like a true impediment and we strive, as humans to move beyond it.
We cannot ignore how information technology is changing the way we live our lives and run our businesses. Think about banking: all of the interactions we used to have at banks have changed. Now, we hardly ever need to even enter a bank. Passenger transportation is still a little old-school, but it is being transformed. Given sustainability concerns, the rail will now need to be electrified – and this electrified rail network will, I believe, be the backbone of our modern, sustainable transportation network.
Fortunately, Canada is a country that has embraced strong sustainability goals and the timing seems to be right for our country to really take the baton in our industry and showcase our world-class, forward-thinking cities – and how a smart ecosystem of electrified transportation can play a key role.
Our cities will be using more electric-powered, clean mass transit options that you can order, track and pay for on your phone; or bicycles, scooters, or even autonomous buses to take us from our commuter trains to our home to finish off their last-mile commutes.
But in order to realize this vision for the future, we, as an industry, need to provide irresistible, reliable transportation that is simpler to use.
Siemens Mobility has decades of research experience and innovation success that it is applying to do just that. Seeing the opportunity for its technology in Canada’s forward-thinking sustainability-oriented cities, Siemens Mobility is seeking to increase its involvement and invest in Canada the “old-fashioned” way – by competing and earning the right to service Canadian transportation agencies with world class technologies to elevate the public transportation experience in Canada.
Now, as Canada’s different governments around the country move forward with important public transportation infrastructure projects, there is great opportunity. Canada has a fantastic brain trust of educated employees with the highest percentage of college educated citizens throughout all OECD countries, which represents the most developed economies in the world.
As an industry, it’s time to support the next generation as they build and grow transportation into a completely new industry. And to respect that opportunity comes with responsibility. For us, it is the responsibility to invest in each other and partner in a way to keep our eye on the main prize: which is enhancing passenger experience and winning back riders to mass public transportation.
I am optimistic we can.
Yves Desjardins Siciliano, CEO
Siemens Mobility Limited