The Future of Transportation: How Digital Mobility Hubs Are Changing the Game

Stewart Mader
Chief Customer Experience Officer at NJ Transit
Listen to this episode on your favorite platform!
Listen in browser!

Podcast Questions

  • Digital future - how Stewart thinks mobile is going to change the way we interact with both private and public transportation infrastructure.
  • We'll talk about frictionless experience for the consumer in the modern digital age
  • Physical and digital mobility hubs
  • NJ Transit's “Innovation Challenges”
  • Mobility as a service


Joe Toste (00:00):

This episode is sponsored by Nagarro. Nagarro is an 8,000 plus digital product engineering company that excels at solving complex business challenges through agility and innovation. We call it thinking breakthroughs. Thinking breakthroughs is how we've helped industry leaders to embrace digital and accelerate technology led innovation. Our clients range from startups to fortune 500 companies like Verizon, Honeywell, Siemens, Lufthansa, Google, Intel, and many more. Our goal isn't just to be another vendor, but a longterm strategic partner. And what really separates us is how we see the changing and evolving world. The challenges that companies are facing are more unique and complex than ever before, especially with the technology disruption happening across the globe today.

Joe Toste (00:42):

And is this technology disruption that our clients look to us to find solutions in a forward-thinking, agile, caring extension of your team kind of way, that can help transform, adapt and build both the now and the future. At Nagarro, we care. Caring is our super power. It drives us to deliver excellence to our clients it makes us responsible and it makes us better colleagues. It all begins the conversation. You can email me at joe.toste@nagarro.com, or message me on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, checkout nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-RO.com. Let's talk about the possibilities and now off to you, James.

James (01:27):

Thanks, Joe. And welcome everyone. You're listening to season two of TechTables, a Q&A podcast dedicated to interviewing industry leaders from across the globe, ranging from startups to fortune 500 companies, mixing it up each week with topics ranging from design and digital product engineering to AI in Industry 4.0. Let's do this, Joe.

Joe Toste (01:47):

Thanks, James. I'm super excited as we shift our focus to all-things-mobility and what is reshaping the transportation industry in a post COVID world. A huge thank you to Stewart Mader for taking time to come on the show and meet with me. In today's episode we'll cover digital future, how Stewart thinks mobile is going to change the way we interact with both private and public transportation infrastructure. We'll talk about frictionless experience for the consumer in the modern digital age. Let's talk about physical and digital mobility hubs, New Jersey Transit Center's innovation challenges and mobility as service. But that's quite enough for me, without further ado, I'm thrilled to welcome Stewart Mader, Chief Customer Experience Officer at the New Jersey Transit Center. Hi, Stewart, thanks for coming on TechTables today. Super excited, you're here.

Stewart Mader (02:28):

Hi, Joe. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here, and have time for mobility with you.

Joe Toste (02:31):

Awesome. Well, let's kick off today with a little bit about you and the New Jersey transit and your journey along with the exciting work in the mobility space and how you're reshaping transportation. Let's start there.

Stewart Mader (02:43):

Great. Well I have a background and career that has spanned tech, finance and transit, and primarily, I am focused on transportation policy, essentially how we make transit, particularly public transportation. And now as we're looking at evolving mobility and mobility as a service, how we make that really work well for people. And just to give you a little background on me, I started my career in the tech side of things way back when doing work in higher ed around digital transformation curriculum and teaching moving from essentially purely analog in the classroom to digital hybrid. That was 20 years ago, and 20 years later, I'm kind of fascinated by how the pandemic has brought a lot of that even further forward and made it essentially the norm now in a way that I think really portends an interesting future. And then some portion of my career working in and around the startup world and tech companies and finance and fintech worlds. And along the way, I've had a longstanding interest in transit and transportation policy.

Stewart Mader (03:52):

And I began to do work about 10 years ago in that space. Worked in particular with the Port Authority of New York to New Jersey, which is one of the big three transit agencies in the New York area on their customer experience, customer engagement, and essentially rethinking and adapting and building new ways to engage with customers, to gain customer input and to use that input to help shape their service, essentially shape their product, which is transportation between New York and New Jersey. And from there, I joined New Jersey Transit as their first customer advocate and Chief Customer Experience Officer, a role in which I worked on a number of projects to essentially bring together that tech background and really transform major elements of their customer experience. Principally, in terms of touch points, their website, their app, their social media, their ways of communicating with customers.

Stewart Mader (04:48):

And I think about customer experience and customer journeys, particularly when you think about transit as starting really long before somebody gets on a train or bus, they start at the point where you're making the decision, "Can transit take me where I need to go" all the way to the point at which you get to your destination. And so when you think about how that aligns with technology and so forth. In a lot of ways, it's picking up your phone, it's picking up an app, it's seeing if transit can get you where you need to go and then making decisions about buying your tickets, your mobile payments and so forth, and then getting information and updates along the way on your journey. So, there's a ton of places in that whole journey for innovation and improvement. And that's the kind of stuff I love to work on.

Joe Toste (05:33):

Oh, I love that. That's a great segue. So let's talk about the mobile phone and how it transforms the way that we interact with transportation, not just a physical map, not a ticketing system or booth, but when you look into the digital future, how do you think about mobile and where it's going to change the way we interact with both private and public transportation infrastructure?

Stewart Mader (05:54):

That's a great question. And look at the landscape of transportation and mobility, especially over the last few years and the rise of in particular apps for ... On the public transportation side, everything from journey planning, trip planning to digital payments, to status updates along the way on your trip. And then look at what's happened with the ride hailing companies, the companies that have basically built their businesses around the mobile app as the node point for customers, for somebody that ... I can download an app and I can get a ride. That is pretty transformational way to think about getting around. It's a huge shift away from the notion of, "Well, if I need to get around, I need to go ..." So going from one end of the spectrum to the other by a car, if I'm in an area where that's kind of the way I would think about getting around to standing on a street corner and hailing a taxi.

Stewart Mader (06:49):

Those are in many ways kind of the established or there I say the old ways of doing things and picking up an app and starting that process through an app is really the new way of doing things. And as I said, it goes for all these different modes, including even the car buying process. There's a lot of innovation in that space too where you can jump into an app and you can look into buying a car and pick sort of either a new car, you can customize and pick out features, a used car, you can go and shop.

Stewart Mader (07:18):

So every aspect of mobility from that sort of very traditional notion of thinking about your own car to be the notion of a car as a service or the notion of mobility and transit as a service that you pick up and use when you need to, the phone is really the primary gateway to that entire process. And we're really, I think only at the beginning of that in terms of how much the phone can do as that interface. So, the last decade we've seen a ton of really interesting stuff happening, and I think we're on the cusp of seeing even more happening, that's going to make what we've seen so far really look like and really be the tip of the iceberg to that shift.

Joe Toste (07:54):

Yeah, that's really great. I'm trying to think about, you roll the clock back 10 years ago and no one's hopping in an Uber or Lyft, "Hey mom, I'm going to," in my case. No, even 10 years ago, I was, I think, early 20. So, if you roll the clock back, maybe a little bit more, just imagine popping into a vehicle where you don't even know the driver, it just would be unimaginable. And technology came along and just especially on the mobile side and it just radically changed just how consumers and folks interact with mobile and digital. And you're spot on with phone is the gateway.

Stewart Mader (08:37):

Yeah. And I think one of the points you bring up there that's most interesting about that shift is the trust factor with technology. And I say that from a very positive standpoint. Obviously, in the sort of initial years of some of these services take for ... GrabShare, Uber, Lyft and such, there've been some stories, some obviously well-documented stories in the media of the challenges around that and the things that those companies, principally Uber have had to really address and really, I think take a different approach to a more serious approach as they've realized that there's that is critically important to customers. And I think that with that in mind, I think it's really interesting to look at how in many ways, the shift toward the mobile-enabled, the phone enabled customer journey, trust is a major, major factor in that and the leaps we've made in terms of that, being able to be valuable for people are huge, and just the story you described.

Stewart Mader (09:31):

We all grew up with a certain generation with the wisdom from our parents, "Don't get in a car with a stranger," and yet you look at where the industry is in terms of mobility, and it is entirely predicated on get into a car with what would outwardly appear to be a stranger, but with the right technology and the right information available to people, you've got a lot of information that should help you be able to make an informed decision about whether you're comfortable. And that to me, again, we're at the tip of the iceberg of that, but already the shift that we're on I think is incredible. And it's going to be incredible to watch them move forward.

Joe Toste (10:08):

Yeah, that's really great. So consumer expectations have skyrocketed over the years with this transition, both with hardware and software, how do you make an integrated and frictionless experience for the consumer in the modern digital age?

Stewart Mader (10:23):

Great question. Let me tell you a story. When I moved to ... My wife and I lived in Manhattan for a number of years. And when we had our first child, we got two daughters, we moved across the river to Hoboken, New Jersey, and we have a light rail system that runs through our little city here. And one of the experiences that I had when I used that light rail system for the first time, this was about seven, eight years ago, I had to buy a paper ticket and I didn't really understand why I couldn't buy it digitally. To me, it felt like I should be able to do that. And fast forward some years later when I joined New Jersey Transit, that's the agency that runs that light rail system, one of the things that I knew I wanted to do and very proud to say I did, is build and roll out digital contact with fair payment for those light rail systems.

Stewart Mader (11:17):

And so the reason I bring up that example is because that is, for me as a consumer, as somebody who was interfacing with that system for the first time, even that number of years ago, by being able to pull my fare digitally in some form was an expectation. And now with the added shift in terms of safety and health and hygiene that the pandemic has brought on, that expectation is heightened even more. And understandably so, so many of the things that we did as normal, kind of normal behaviors before the pandemic, I think we've now had a new sense of awareness of how, in some ways dangerous, those things are, even the notion of something like signing into a doctor's office and picking up a clipboard and a pen, filling out a piece of paper, you're touching everybody else who takes that clipboard and pen.

Stewart Mader (12:13):

And being able to do that online, that's another shift I've noticed in customer experience when my daughters and I went to the dentist a few weeks ago, we did all our paperwork online. I got an email from them, downloaded an app, filled out all the information on my phone, and when I walked into the dentist's office, they had everything they needed. There was floor, they said, "You're going to be in [inaudible 00:12:36] here, dental checkup. And off I went, and it was a talk about a frictionless experience. I got to sit at home that morning while drinking my coffee, sitting on the couch and fill out that paperwork as opposed to sitting in a doctor's office or dentist office with a pen and paper filling that stuff out and fumbling around like, "Oh, gee, I don't have that piece of information. I'll have to email it to you."

Stewart Mader (12:57):

I could just run down some stairs and my desk get the piece of paper, the number or the whatever info I needed and just enter it right in there. That was frictionless for me. And it's also a more frictionless, higher quality, higher fidelity business process because that business got all the information they needed from me in that one instance, without having to go back and fill in bits and pieces of the information they needed later on. And so all of this, I think, leads to experiences that are ... The frictionless integrated experience has obvious benefits for the customer, benefits that the customer may not always think about that are behind the scenes for the business, but those ultimately accrue to the benefit of the customer, because if a business has all the information they need to help me have a transaction that goes really smoothly, that is yet another positive step in the customer experience that's going to build my affinity for that business.

Stewart Mader (13:52):

And I think that's the way we've got to think about moving forward and continuing to move, and it is in some ways, a silver lining, I think of the pandemic is that it's given us this opportunity to fast forward these experiences. So, just to jump back to that example of the fair payments permitted on the light rail, that was something I did in seven weeks, start to finish. Pulled a team of people together. I called it my can-do coalition. And it was people from across the organization. None of the people that worked with me on that project were direct reports of mine. Everyone was somebody that I needed to bring on board and work with all across the board, from finance to IT, to public relations, to fair enforcement.

Stewart Mader (14:33):

I brought together a group of people together and made the project happen. And my message to everybody was, "Think of yourself as a customer. You're going to want this. You're going to feel more comfortable having this, and that means our customers are going to feel more comfortable having it. And that's going to build their affinity, it's going to contribute to our rebuilding of their trust and comfort with using Transit, and that's really critical." And it also allowed the agency to tell a broadly positive story to all of its customers, because the one area that was missing, the contact with fair payment was light rail. The bus customers had it, the train customers had it, the light rail customers didn't. So, once we filled in that gap, that's an obvious direct benefit for those customers, but it's also a broader story to every customer that there is 100% contactless way to use this mobility service in a way that's going to make you feel more comfortable using it.

Joe Toste (15:25):

Yeah, that's great. Let's hop back over to the integration of physical and digital mobility hubs on the physical side about having multiple options in one place, and then letting Traveler's move from, say an airport to a train subway, Uber, Lyft, or even a scooter. The main benefit of a mobility hub is to provide connection and maximize the infrastructure that's in place. On the digital side, it's taking what every traveler has in their pocket, which we've been talking about a smartphone, and increasingly we have the smartwatch and integrating the digital aspect into the physical world. Where are you seeing mobility hubs provide the most value to travelers in a physical and digital world?

Stewart Mader (16:05):

One of the examples of that that I'm seeing, I'm thinking a lot about is in New York city. And actually, in lots of major cities, the movement toward the NextGen fair payment for transit systems, so take New York city, for example. The MTA, which is the agency that runs the subways and buses and regional rail in around New York. Particularly, for the subways and buses, they're in the midst of rolling out a NextGen care payment system that talk about both a more frictionless digital experience, and also merging of physical and digital mobility hubs. They're moving away from the world in which you have to go walk up to a ticket vending machine and buy a paper ticket, or buy a plastic card and then go to a subway turnstile or a bus stop and dip it and pay your fare and get off.

Stewart Mader (16:58):

The other system is going away from that completely. And it's moving to a world in which I can walk to a subway turnstile with my smartphone, my case I use Apple. So, I've got Apple Pay set up on my phone. The very fact that I have Apple Pay set up on my phone, or if I was an Android customer, had Google Pay set up on my phone is enough for me to walk up to that turnstile, tap my phone, or really these days contact this, hold my phone near the reader and my fare payment is taken care of. I don't have to go stand in line to buy a ticket. I don't have to fumble for money. I don't have to worry about trying to remember my ATM card pin, I'm ready to get out and transit by virtue of the fact that I'm ready to pay digitally with the modern digital payment systems that are fast becoming the norm everywhere.

Stewart Mader (17:44):

And that's really a huge shift in my opinion, because that notion of intermediary of having to go buy a fare card and load it is something that adds complication to mobility, to Transit in particular, in multiple ways. One, if your kid is going out to ride transit, let's say your tween or teen, you've got to worry about, "Did I give him money to pay for this?" Well, if you're using digital digital payment platforms like Apple and Google Pay, I can make sure my kid has some money in their account. As long as they've got a phone that's set up to pay, they can go. That's peace of mind. That's less friction and that's less stress. And where that merges into the digital and physical kind of mobility hubs is New York city is a mobility hub.

Stewart Mader (18:32):

I mean, that's what powers the economy. That's what makes it ... And that's really the case for every major city. New York is kind of on a higher plane because of just its sheer size relative to every other city. But even looking around at other cities, LA is doing incredible things in terms of investment in transit and when you look kind of historically, it's fascinating to me to watch that because LA was once a city that had streetcars running everywhere. But LA in all the ways had the kind of density of transit that people often associate with New York city and it went through a period where a lot of that infrastructure was essentially replaced by the car. And it's now going through a sort of phase in its evolution as an urban hub where a big pieces of that infrastructure coming back.

Stewart Mader (19:18):

LA past our sales tax throughout away County several years ago, that has been one of the largest investments in mobility and transit in any city in the US definitely and certainly in North America too. And so they're basically thinking strategically about LA as a mobility hub, as a hub that needs to rely on something other than giant freeways and the cultural idea of lots of division that we have long at people sitting in these giant traffic jams, they recognize that that doesn't work for the economy, that they need seamless mobility. And then when you put on top of that, the ability for people to pay their way in the mobility system to get where they need to go in a really frictionless way, in a really integrated way, I think it's really incredible the economic opportunity that that is already unlocking.

Stewart Mader (20:07):

And yes, the pandemic has obviously had an impact on that, but there are doomsayers who say, "Oh, this is the end of the city as everybody going to go live in the woods. And we're not going to have a major hubs anymore." We've been through this before. We've seen this happen, when you go back and look at the 1918 pandemic, when you look at the post 9/11 predictions for New York city, and none of those worst predictions have come to pass. In fact, what we've seen is that all of these inflection points have created opportunities for rapid adaptation, rapid reshaping of the way that these things work. And when you think about the combination of where we are with digital and payments and idea of the focus throughout the private and public sectors on building a more frictionless, seamless customer experience, in some ways, that embrace of recognizing that end to end customer experience is really important, is very timely because getting that right is key to getting people comfortable, again, with being out and about in a way that's safe.

Joe Toste (21:09):

That's really great. The story of your kind of tween, I've got a daughter she's 11, and we just got her the new Apple watch, and Apple just came out with the whole Apple family thing. And so she's now kind of hooked up on our account, and now she can kind of move around and we can Apple Pay her cash and all that cute kind of fun stuff, so she can start to be a little bit more mobile. Obviously, if she gets a little bit older, it'll be pretty fun. We're not really in a city where it's huge on mobility, but I think in certain cities, it would be really, really good. I mean, just having train cards or whatever, I used to live in Chicago, same thing, just being able to travel around and have the whole family hooked up and you're not really taking out money. You don't have to go wait in line. Really, really great stuff. So, talk about the mobility as a service, and there's a lot of different services out there, but I think just segue into the mobility as a service would be really good.

Stewart Mader (22:11):

Sure, yeah. One of the things that I've been paying close attention to the last few years in terms of mobility as a service is obviously there's a proliferation in modes of transit, modes of mobility beyond ... If you think about for a lot of people, the car as kind of a dominant mode of mobility, which is the case in large parts of the US, what we're seeing is a shift to modes that can compliment the car, that can reduce people's reliance on the car as being the default. And I think kind of relegate the car ... When I use the car in this kind of contexts, because culturally America has a love affair with the car, and there are good and bad things about that obviously. The bad from a customer experience standpoint is sitting in traffic when you're late for a meeting, the good is having a car and going on the great American road trip.

Stewart Mader (23:08):

And I think that there are elements of that so take the bad side of it. Well, how can we improve that? Well, if instead of everybody feeling the need to go out and buy a car and drive that car every day to go to work, if there are mobility options that you can take ... For instance, I can take a Lyft instead of driving my own car. Well, that's one less car on the road, because if I use that Lyft for a few minutes and then I'm done, and I'm where I am, and that driver can often pick somebody else, there's a reduction in the volume of vehicles that are coming up the roads. And what that leads to is an opportunity to really then go even further trends of rethinking, well, if we've been in a mindset where the road has been dedicated to the private car, and we built more roads because every time there's congestion and there's this term in the transit industry, the transportation industry, induced demand.

Stewart Mader (23:58):

And it's the idea that, "Hey, if you've got traffic jams on your road, widen it, build more lanes and that will ease the congestion." And that often eases the congestion in the beginning, but what happens is it also creates the expectation that, "Oh, it's a bigger highway, it's a wider road. I can use that road without getting stuck in traffic." More people use it, and guess what? You're right back to square one, you've got a traffic jam again. So I think that gradually there's been this realization that, wide your roads isn't the solution to gridlock, it isn't the solution to ever greater mobility needs. So, how can we better solve this? And when you look at a mix of mobility options, so I live in a small dense city, that's on the edge of a giant metropolitan area. My city did a pilot of shareable e-scooters back in 2019, which feels like a million years ago now.

Stewart Mader (24:46):

And to me, what was fascinating about that pilot with the scooters is I live about a mile from fixed-route transit. And I often walk that mile because to me, it's built in exercise, but to be able to jump on a scooter and travel that same route almost felt like time travel, because what would take me about 15, 18 minutes walking would take me six minutes on a scooter. And to me that was like, "Wow, I can jump on a scooter and I can get to that route faster." I have a couple more minutes in the morning to drink my coffee a little more slowly or take care of something else at the house before I leave the house, or I have more flexibility to go ... Well, if it usually takes me 15 minutes to walk and I'm a little less reluctant to go run a quick errand I go, "Well, if I can hop on a scooter, but I'm paying $2 to use the scooter, I can run an errand sort of more readily."

Stewart Mader (25:36):

It's almost like Amazon Prime in a way, it's sort of like you get on Amazon Prime and you don't think as much about, "Well, I'll just buy this one item that I need because it's free shipping." There's a downside to that too, which is obviously proliferation of packages, materials, there's environmental consequences to think about with that. But that notion of that convenience to me is the future of mobility as a service. The idea that I know I need to go somewhere, I know I need to go about a certain time, what are my ways to get there? It goes back to what we talked about earlier, being able to pick up the phone and through an app and look at my options and pick the way I want to go is incredible way to think about the future.

Stewart Mader (26:15):

And we're on a path to that, but we're not quite there yet. There isn't yet the ability to in most major metro areas, pick up your phone and have a single app that can tell you every mobility option and handle everything seamlessly from trip planning to payment, to updates, but that's the direction that we're headed. That's what I see. And then coupled with that, what I see are traditional sort of speed transit agencies that are really thinking outside the box in terms of having the infrastructure mobility infrastructure all under one roof.

Stewart Mader (26:50):

So I'll give you two quick examples. One is London. When you look at the transport for London or TFL, we can see that runs the London underground, the overground, the buses, and the bike share. That agency runs all those different modes. And to me, the addition of bike share into that, it was several years back, to me it was a real inflection point because there's an agency that's not thinking about itself in terms of buses and trains, but really thinking about itself in terms of mobility, because putting bikes in the mix that way, the seamlessness that creates for customers in terms of your fare card being able to pay for multiple modes and then in terms of digital, being able to pay through the app, that's where you start to see the leaps that really build toward having that seamless mobility.

Stewart Mader (27:36):

Some of the things happening in LA, LA Metro as taking responsibility for the bike share system in LA. So, you think about taking the LA Metro, the subway, or taking the buses, and now you see the LA Metro logo on the bikes. There are Metro bikes. And that to me is important because that helps along this journey of getting to a more seamless place, a more sort of on demand approach. Because if I can see it and plan it all through the app, and then all these different modes are being coordinated and integrated at the provider level by the umbrella agencies that are responsible for all this, those two ingredients coming together, that's where the next 10 years are going to be so interesting and so fascinating to live through and so exciting.

Joe Toste (28:23):

Yeah, that's great. So, to transition to, I was reading online as I was preparing for this podcast, which was really great. I was reading about the New Jersey Transit, they've hosted a number of innovation challenges. I love this idea. One of my earlier episodes, I interviewed Rick Bellioti, Director of Innovation and Customer Experience Design the San Diego airport and they had some similar challenges in the innovation cohorts. Can you talk about the importance of innovation in a post COVID pandemic world?

Stewart Mader (28:52):

Yes, that's a topic that's near and dear to my heart. In fact, on my website, stewartmader.com, I have an article in which I imagined the pandemic induced future for transportation. And I wrote it through the lens of a middle-aged, middle-class, multi-generational family and their differing transit needs as a result of the pandemic. And in fact, I had also looked at it from the standpoint of multiple members of that family working in essential jobs, essentially the types of jobs that have where we've seen the people who've been most reliant on transit, especially in the earliest parts of the pandemic when there really was kind of a gulf between the people who could work from home and the people who were location essentially needed to be somewhere and needed to be somewhere frankly for, in many ways, the most wonderful and honorable and noble of reasons, they were the people that save lives.

Stewart Mader (29:52):

And to me, what's most important right now for the future of transit and mobility is recognizing that the way that we have thought about planning service, and serving customers is right for [inaudible 00:30:13]. Take commuter rail for example, the very fact that the word commuter is in the lexicon for the kinds of rail systems that serve a lot of cities. It dates directly from the 1960s to early 1970s era when lots of private railroads were going bankrupt because of the post-war decline in use of rail and the rising of the car. A lot of those private railroad went bankrupt because they just didn't have the ridership anymore. And what happened is the services were subsumed into the public entities that all across the country run transit service, but that name commuter rail implies, that's not criticizing, it reflects the way that the mindset in which that service was created and kind of maintained in that era, it was the nine-to-five, hub and spoke, people who are going into the city of center in the morning and out again at night.

Stewart Mader (31:15):

And what have we learned from the pandemic? That segment of the population is the population that in a lot of cases is least heavily using transit. It's the people who are most able to work from home. And so what that tells me is there's a big opportunity to rethink that notion of transit serving the nine-to-five population and serving the hub and spoke in and out of the city model and think very differently about mobility as point to point and happening at all times a day, and more on demand, more data driven. Or at least data informed in terms of running frequency of service, not based on a schedule that's planned twice a year, but a schedule that is planned based on constant inputs of data from the vehicles and being able to then dynamically adjust the amount of service you run on a line.

Stewart Mader (32:06):

If you've got one bus line that's carrying 10 people per bus, and you've got another bus line that is carrying 100 people per bus. Well, you know which bus line needs more vehicles on it, especially these days so people can be safely, physically distant from each other. That's the type of innovation. That's the type of change that is incredibly exciting for people who work in the industry to have the opportunity to unleash, because it is so essential to the future of mobility. It's so essential to the customer experience. Customers want to be able to have the convenience of getting on a vehicle and getting where they need to go. I mean, I think about the very first time in my life that I ever took transit, I still vividly remember, I was on a family vacation to London.

Stewart Mader (32:52):

I was eight years old and I got on a London underground for the first time. And I thought it was like a magic movie floor. You get on this subway train and the doors close and you stand there and it whisks you to somewhere else, the doors open and you get off and you're stuck from the floor and you're where you need to be. That was incredible to me as an eight year old. And that is still incredible to me because that is the fundamental basic premise of good mobility and good transit is being able to whisk people in that way that feels almost magical. And we have such an opportunity right now, all throughout the mobility and transit industry to use the radically reshaped world that we now live in, that a radically different than the world we lived in seven months ago to push forward with some of these changes because it's essential to the future survival and kind of the future of the industry to thrive in serving customers well, and then getting people where they need to go.

Joe Toste (33:53):

That's great. So your day job is that the New Jersey Transit Center, but you have a pretty awesome portfolio of content on your own personal website at stewartmader.com. Can you tell the audience about the type of content that you have up there and your favorite piece too?

Stewart Mader (34:09):

So I've been writing about and researching and leading on transit policy for a number of years. And what I've done, and this is something that started ... I started building a website, I've had it now since the early 2000s. I was that kid who loved tinkering with computers and building stuff and that gradually led to tinkering and building stuff online for the web. And what I do with my website is it's my hub for sharing my professional perspective and accomplishments and vision for where I see things going in the industry. And so a couple of examples. One, I mentioned before is that article that imagines how the pandemic is changing and prompting us to shift as an industry. Another one is something called Pandemic Best Practices, which is something I started ... I find writing helps me organize my thoughts.

Stewart Mader (35:05):

It helps me plan kind of strategically what I'm doing. And what I started doing when the pandemic really started to really become a factor in the early part of this year, I started tracking what transit providers and mobility providers throughout the industry were doing. Everything from, for instance, using rear door boarding on buses to create safe distance for best drivers, because bus drivers are ... They're in a bus for hours a day with people getting on and off, how do you protect them? Well, one of the most practical ways to do that as do rear door boarding, that way you're having get on and off several feet away from that bus driver. Adaptations and innovations and things that people were doing, kind of quick thinking improvements, I started documenting those and I ended up creating a list called Pandemic Best Practices that outline ... There's an A to Z list of the kinds of these kinds of adaptations and changes throughout the transit industry.

Stewart Mader (35:59):

And I found that incredibly helpful because some months into the pandemic, when I was asked to lead a task force for New Jersey Transit, that was focused on customer communication and adaptations to facilities, to train stations, bus stops, by building that resource and tracking what was happening throughout the industry. I had my own guide to what to do practically written and ready to go. And part of the reason I have that in my website is I love to be able to share that kind of work with others. And also benefit from, by putting that on my website, sharing it and telling people about it, I had people throughout the industry from California to Maine, to Chicago, Oregon, you name it, contacting me and sharing the examples and ideas with me of things their agencies were doing. To me, that knowledge sharing is something that is really critical.

Stewart Mader (36:50):

And then just one other one I'll mention, some years ago I created a map it's called the New York and New Jersey Subway Map, and it was a proof concept for agency leadership in this region to show what it would look like to have a map based on the New York City Subway Map, which is iconic. It's known the world over as one of the most recognizable way-finding tools. It's for one of the biggest metropolises on earth. And I created this proof of concept to show what it would look like to integrate some other services onto that map, principally the path train, which is what I call New York Second Subway. It's the one that connects New York and New Jersey. I wanted to show what it would look like to have really a seamless mobility map that had all of the services in the region on one map.

Stewart Mader (37:35):

I created that, I taught myself how to edit vector art in Adobe Illustrator in the process. And I put it up on my website and that was about five years ago. And still to this day, it is the number one thing that drives traffic to my website. People come to look at that map and it kind of tickles me that that's so valuable to people. 30,000 people on Facebook have liked that map and it's something that I created. It was kind of like I scratched an itch. I was working with some folks on this looking at and thinking about seamless mobility and the elements of that. And obviously maps are a big part of that. Even in the digital world, even with mobile devices, phones, trip planning tools, there's something fundamentally fine I think for us humans to have maps that show us where we are and help us kind of spatially relate to the places we live and the places we visit.

Stewart Mader (38:29):

And for me, creating a map was an exercise in helping create a bigger, broader picture of what mobility looks like in the New York region. And so it's something that's been on my website ever since and it's something that I'm glad I'm able to share things like that. And the other pieces I've written with the world, because we all do better in both the transit mobility industry, but just in general as professionals, we all do better when we share these things with each other and benefit from the shared contributions of our colleagues.

Joe Toste (39:04):

That's great. So, as we wrap up this episode, lots of really great stuff, I'm curious, what's the nicest thing someone has done for you?

Stewart Mader (39:14):

That's a really good question. I'm thinking about today and having a chance to talk with you in this podcast is something that ... You reached out, we connected through LinkedIn, we've had some great conversations about the sort of merging and integration and value of tech, and from my perspective, how that relates to transit. And it's been really nice to do that, again, to get together and have a conversation and share that. So, I want to thank you for that.

Joe Toste (39:46):

Stewart, that is the nicest thing I've heard today. I love it.

Stewart Mader (39:51):

[inaudible 00:39:51].

Joe Toste (39:51):

So, you have your website, do you hang out on LinkedIn, Twitter? Where else do you hang out at?

Stewart Mader (39:58):

I do. So, stewartmader.com is my website, that all my articles, and there's a form there, if anybody wants to contact me, love to talk shop. And then I hang out on LinkedIn and Twitter and I'm @stewartmader on both platforms.

Joe Toste (40:13):

Love it, awesome. Well, thanks for coming on TechTables, and appreciate the time.

Stewart Mader (40:18):

Sure. Thanks so much. It's been a pleasure to talk with you.

James (40:22):

If you're interested in seeing what Nagarro, a digital product engineering company that excels at solving complex business challenges through agility and innovation can do for your company, you can email Joe at joe.toste, that's T-O-S-T-E, @nagarro.com, or message Joe on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, checkout nagarro.com, that's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. You've been listening to the TechTables Podcast. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you have an iPhone, we'd love for you to open the Apple podcast app and leave a quick rating for the show. Just tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. To catch more TechTables episodes, you can go to techtablespodcast.com. And to learn more about our sponsor, please visit nagarro.com, that's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. And of course you can find Joe Toste, your podcast host on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Joe's last name is T-O-S-T-E. Thanks for listening.

Joe Toste
Joe Toste
Host of TechTables Podcast

Host of TechTables 🎙- Conversations with Top Technology Leaders