For transportation agencies, technology selection is too important to leave to manufacturers.

When transit agencies introduce a new train or bus, they aim for a specific milestone: a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Imagine this. A major public event attended by local media and politicians will showcase the new vehicle and how it will improve the passenger experience. It's a moment to celebrate what is probably a long and expensive process.

But procuring a new car has long-term implications that go far beyond the ribbon-cutting. These new vehicles then require operation and maintenance over days, months, and years. Transit agencies expect new vehicles to serve passengers for decades, but that requires significant maintenance costs. While manufacturing and shipping make up a small portion of the total cost of ownership, the majority of expenses come from operating and maintenance costs.

This procurement approach – One focuses on minimizing initial costs and prioritizing deliveries. – Operational considerations are often overlooked. As a result, largely through no fault of their own, transit agencies leave many decisions to the manufacturers responsible for delivering the vehicles. The effects of this oversight can be both costly and burdensome.

To be honest, it hasn't been a smooth road.

While it's true that transit agencies should be in control of their own technological destiny, the industry has an equally strong need for future dialogue between transportation experts, rail operators, and manufacturers. Each voice in this ecosystem presents an important piece of the puzzle, guiding the collective journey towards a more connected, intelligent, and user-responsive transportation infrastructure.

Common procurement pitfalls

Here are some examples of where vehicle procurement can go wrong.

  • The local transit agency plans to issue an RFP in 2024, with vehicle delivery, testing and trials four years later. Fast forward two more years, he says, and the trials are complete, the vehicle has been accepted, and it's scheduled to be unveiled to the public in a big way. It is not uncommon for it to take six years or more from RFP to final delivery.

  • Technology has advanced dramatically over the past six years. Consider the evolution of smartphones since 2018. Apply these technological developments to everything from connectivity to security to payment processing to artificial intelligence. If we focus on new train technology in 2024, by the time it debuts in 2030, that train will surely be on its way to obsolescence.

  • When a transit agency outsources the production of new vehicles to a manufacturer, technical decisions are often left to the manufacturer. But guess what? Manufacturers’ top priority is not to future-proof the passenger experience in 2030; We meet deadlines and stay within budget. And unless requirements are clearly defined, compromises are often made when choosing everything from seats to connectivity solutions.

Ignoring operational stages not only reduces passenger satisfaction. That will ultimately hold you back. Pre-selecting cheaper components can reduce initial costs, but increases operational and maintenance costs. In addition to the repair costs of the rolling stock itself, there is also the loss of revenue when trains are stopped for maintenance. Rail operators are under constant pressure to ensure reliability and cost efficiency to compete with other modes of transportation, and compromising on components only increases that pressure.

Comarch Telecom predictions for 2024
Comarch Telecom predictions for 2024

Form a partnership.Don't just procure for the sake of procuring

What can agencies do to lead with technology? The most important step is to change their mindset and identity. Rather than playing a purchasing role with manufacturers, transit agencies instead partner with manufacturers. The partnership requires them to take on more decision-making responsibility for the selection of technology and customer-facing components.

Unlike previous procurement approaches, where distributors provided detailed specifications at the outset of a contract, this new partnership approach allows operators and manufacturers to work in parallel, combining the expertise of both parties. Ensures that the results meet the specific needs of the operator. And the passengers.

This partnership approach provides greater flexibility throughout the process and allows transportation operators to select more advanced technologies as vehicles get closer to entering service. It also allows agencies to carefully choose which components to invest in to reduce long-term maintenance costs.

Comarch Telecom predictions for 2024
Comarch Telecom predictions for 2024

Buy operations, not equipment

Think about all the equipment you buy. Whether it's a car, a smartphone, a television, or a baseball glove, you're not paying for the product itself; you're paying for the services provided during the product's lifespan. . The same applies to transportation vehicles.

Purchase transit instead of trains and buses. If you compromise on operations and maintenance, you will continue to have those problems for the life of your equipment. By tying each decision you make during the planning stage to vehicle operation, the end result is equipment that provides better, more reliable service at a lower total cost. It's not a project, it's an operation.

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