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Challenges and Opportunities for Transit in 2022

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This article was originally featured in the January 7 issue of APTA's Passenger Transport newsletter.

The unique challenges faced by transit networks over the last two years are likely to remain persistent in 2022. But the tasks of finding operators, growing ridership and revenue, and investing in infrastructure are all well-documented and discussed topics. As we look to the year ahead let’s review the last decade for better insight into what we need to do in 2022 to see our communities succeed in the next ten years.

Since the great recession, U.S. transit ridership has been in decline while sales of light trucks and SUVs continue to rise. This trend is worsening the impacts of climate change that have become alarmingly visible in 2021. The year ahead will be punctuated by city and state governments taking a comprehensive look at their transit systems and making them both greener and more attractive and accessible to more passengers.  


At Keolis, we have a unique ability to see around the corners regarding mobility habits. Between COVID waves, some networks in France and China saw ridership growth come close to or exceed pre-pandemic levels. Commitment to quality of service for passengers is a recurrent theme, and networks that are integrated, electric, easy to use, and complemented by infrastructure for micro mobility appear to do best.

Most U.S. transit networks historically catered to 9-5 commuters. However, we’re seeing our strongest ridership returns outside of those travel times. With a service called Keolis Evolve, we take these insights to recommend better service patterns, timetables and routes – an important exercise for public transit agencies. We’ve also seen an explosion in walking and biking as people seek social distanced activities that get them out of the house.

As cities and towns react to these new demands, more bike storage facilities will appear at stations. Amenities like WiFi, and apps for easy trip planning and simplified fare payments will be introduced. And, our roadways will move greater volumes of people than ever before thanks to growing bus rapid transit networks and space for micro mobility. Further electrification will also be a major theme in 2022 as orders for electric buses catches up with other parts of the world. Internationally, 1 in 5 buses Keolis operates is operated with alternative energy.

There’s an urgency to this, which is why I’m confident we’ll see strong action from our leaders in 2022. The past two years have seen vehicle miles traveled grow exponentially and driver-involved accidents are at record highs. Competing for passengers and attracting them by ensuring transit is safe, reliable, green, and easy to use will help to improve our communities’ livability.