Who's Who

Kevin Orr on COVID-19 and transport


Kevin Orr is the CEO and co-founder of Liftango, a ‘shared mobility tech start-up’, involved in, amongst other things, on-demand bus trials, vehicle tracking, demand-responsive scheduling and routing optimisation for driverless fleets, and more.

His company very much looking ahead, Kevin has looked around at the change the pandemic is forcing up our transport now, and how it might continue to exert an influence in the future.

What are the main effects or changes due to COVID-19 that you’re seeing right now in transport?

Liftango powers some of the most successful on-demand bus systems across the world and we have operations in APAC, North America and Europe. We are seeing varying impacts from COVID-19 and similarly different transport responses from government, transit agencies and corporates.

The main trend is that transport is changing and we have seen an acceleration of interest in how technology can create a safer more resilient transport system during COVID-19. However, it is also about planning for the future should there be ongoing disruption from COVID-19, a new pandemic or alternatively another disaster that affects the system. Our transport systems need to be able to adapt more quickly than they are today.

We see public transport in general having to spend time and effort on winning back the trust of passengers. On-demand bus technology (or DRT, demand responsive transportation) is a way to improve the system, but also make it safer for passengers due to contact tracing, seat spacing for social distancing and improved communications.

Additionally, many corporations are looking to put on corporate on-demand shuttles for their staff to ensure they are transported more safely to/from the office than public transport can currently provide.

What changes would you like to see in the transport sector when the world rights itself post-pandemic?

Greater focus on Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainability!

At the beginning of 2020 the top problems for CEOs were climate change impacts and the potential of a pandemic. My hope is we can build a more sustainable transport system on the other side of this pandemic.

We are seeing signs of it, with companies committing to ambitious climate reduction strategies and focusing on creating a circular economy within their business. Similarly, companies are increasingly including scope 3 emissions within their climate reduction strategies, of which commuting and business travel can make up 50% of these types of emissions.

By maintaining a healthy level of staff who can work-from-home, coupled with sustainable commute solutions there is the opportunity to create a future work-force that enjoys a better work-life balance while maintaining important company connectivity and increasing climate positive actions.

And what changes do you think will happen in transport post-pandemic?

Public transport passengers will reduce further, and it will spark transport agencies to think differently. We see more on-demand bus/DRT services being adopted which will create a more resilient, responsive, and convenient public transport system. Alongside innovative digital solutions that promote social distancing and increase passenger trust again.

Ultimately, the way people move around our cities has now permanently changed from pre-COVID times. The question for city planners and transit agencies is firstly how has this changed? And secondly, how can we prepare our cities and transport to adapt more quickly to the change? Advanced technologies will be more important than ever!

Like this interview? Click here to see the rest of our interviews about the effects of COVID-19 on the transport sector.

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