Melbourne 2030 – Rethinking transport models to put the customer first

Praveen Thakur, Director, Management Consulting
Praveen Thakur, Director, Management Consulting
Renan Grace, Manager, Management Consulting

Australia’s transport system is on the cusp of major and permanent disruption. We will soon see the introduction of autonomous vehicles, electric or other zero emission vehicles, mobility as a service and ‘user pays’ road pricing to more efficiently manage population growth and congestion and fund infrastructure improvements. These disruptors will mean changes in how governments approach transport planning, strategy, policy and regulation to cope with an uncertain future.

The private sector is beginning to realise there is a competitive advantage in understanding and optimising customer experience[1]. However, building a robust understanding of who your customers are and their experience is not a simple task.

Shifting from ‘trip’ to ‘traveller’

Transport planners and policy makers are also starting to understand their customers better.

However, they currently rely on analytical tools known as four step models to provide an evidence base for decision making. These tools, designed to forecast trip volumes, how many people per hour, day or year, have been used since the 1950s for comparing infrastructure options and informing strategy development

Crucially, these models rely on modelling trips as the unit of analysis rather than people – the ultimate customers or users of the transport network. This means that four-step models provide little information about the ‘customers’. It is challenging to understand who the winners and losers of a project or policy proposal are and who the users are – what are their demographic characteristics and what drives their preferences and decisions.

A more advanced framework for transport modelling is the agent and activity-based model. This framework offers several advantages over four-step models, with the focus of the analysis the user not the trip. Understanding the customer is important not only for making the right decisions, but also for communicating new transport policies and projects to the public. By identifying and enabling the customers (users) who are affected by the policy/ project proposal, this approach helps ensure the policy or project proposal is not ‘hijacked’ by specific interest groups.

Putting it in motion

Infrastructure Victoria, in recognition of the need for customer centricity and more sophisticated analytical tools in infrastructure planning, worked with KPMG to develop a new agent and activity-based model for Melbourne. This model is known as the Melbourne Activity Based Model (MABM).

We are hopeful that the MABM can contribute to a stronger evidence based and more robust public discourse for transport policy and infrastructure planning.

Further information on KPMG’s Melbourne Activity Based Model (MABM) can be found at Infrastructure Victoria website.

[1] See Australian Financial Review (2017), Jump-start the journey to customer obsession, Mark Eggleton, December 3, 2017.

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