Mateusz Łasaj, Łukasz Nowak: interviewers(I)
Adrian Słupski (head of the transport organistaion and control department from PKM Jaworzno): guest(G)
The main office of PKM Jaworzno
I: What do you think of introducing buses that collect solar energy themselves and use it for driving?
G: To be honest, I don’t know any similar solution that would already be functioning. It’s an interesting idea but hard to accomplish. I don’t know if our technology at all allows us for buses of such big measurments, curb weight, designed for a large number of people to be able to move only by solar energy. It seems to me that this is a very distant future. It will be definitely needed to start with passenger cars which have less curb weight to be able to drive them with such energy. I am familiar with the solution of solar panels in buses. It is even used in Poland. In Warsaw, such buses run, but the solar panels mounted on the roof of these buses are only used for powering small devices. The traction motor consumes a huge amount of power, so certainly only a solar battery wouldn’t be enough. Such a solar battery on the roof of the bus can be used, for example, to power ticket validators, bus monitoring system, devices like passenger information systems, i.e. external displays , a voice announcement system or the system that shows the route of a bus. Solar panels are suitable for such small consumers of electricity, but currently technology does not allow buses to move only when powered by solar batteries.
W: Are there currently any plans for the development of the PKM application for phones, and if not, are there any possibilities for improvement, such as displaying the available seats and standing spaces of the selected bus?
AS: The PKM mobile application is becoming more and more popular and we are very pleased with it. The application already has 11 thousand users and this number is constantly growing. We are delighted about it and we would like more and more people to use this app, because in fact the use of the bus card seems to be a bit outdated nowadays. The bus card is almost useless for us. Theoretically, you can still charge it by an electronic purse for bus fare, but it is an increasingly less popular service among passengers and in fact we would like as many people as possible to have applications instead of bus cards. For us, this is a big advantage. We don’t have to deal with issuing these cards, accepting complaints, inviting passengers to get a card, or organizing the entire complaint process because the application actually seems to be very convenient for passengers. Ticket can be bought at any time on phone, without leaving home. This method seems to be a little more resistant to damage. A bus card sometimes gets lost, breaks, stops working due to long time of use. Some cards are fifteen years old. It appears to be that monthly, periodic, annual, or whatever ticket somone has in phone to be handy for passengers in case of ticket inspection or a need to check the validity date of this ticket at any moment. We will promote this service. The application will certainly be developed in various directions. Currently, we have not thought about the development of the application towards displaying the occupancy of the number of places, due to the fact that we are limited by the equipment of vehicles. In order for us to be able to do this, counting gates would have to be installed in each bus, so that the bus would count how many people entered and left at individual stops, and so that it could indicate to some generally available system how many passengers are traveling in the vehicle. We do not anticipate this at the moment. Devices like that are relatively expensive and we certainly cannot afford to install them in every bus at present. Perhaps in the future it is actually an idea worth thinking about. We would also have more data on from where to where and when passengers travel, and it may be worth installing counting gates in all buses, but now we have more urgent expenses. Certainly, we will not implement it in the near future. The mobile application will still evolve a bit. Probably in terms of how to buy a ticket. We are observing a certain trend that probably one more step will have to be taken when purchasing a ticket. This means that the passenger will probably have to scan the QR code on the bus when buying a single or daily ticket to validate the ticket. It will be a bit of protection for us against people who start using this application a little dishonestly, i.e. buying a ticket the moment they see the controller on the bus, so such a security and modification in the system is planned and will be soon. We definitely recommend passengers to use the app KiedyPrzyjedzie. This application shows passengers real-time information about when the bus will arrive at each stop of the transport network. It seems to us that it is an extremely valuable tool for public transport users, as we are not able to properly equip every bus stop, even one that is used by very few passengers, such as Cezarówka Dolna or Cezarówka Górna (Sasanek), where several people get on during the day. Only in those places there will never be an information board. You can have the same information board in the application KiedyPrzyjedzie in your phone and open it to see when the bus will actually arrive, whether it is delayed or not. Passengers eagerly use this application and we develop it together with the system provider. Recently, there was a modification which makes it possible to see on the map in the course details where bus for which we are waiting is located.
W: At what stage are the works related to autonomous buses?
AS: The problem of the lack of drivers in public transport is very important. Hence, many companies in the world are striving to start autonomizing vehicles. We also took such actions. We have one bus that we together with our business partner have equipped with special sensors. These sensors, scanners on this bus are scanning the city right now. They scan the depot area. A 3D map of the places where these buses travel is being developed. We are carrying out first attempts at an autonomous bus system. Soon, we will also be testing the application for ordering transport on request for passengers. This application will one day be associated with the tests of the autonomous bus. However, the implementation of such vehicles still faces a huge number of barriers, primarily legal. Currently, in Poland, it is not allowed to drive an autonomous vehicle on public roads. Also, technology of these vehicles still seems to be a bit imperfect. We saw in other cities how they were used in some test parts of the city. This bus is very sensitive to various traffic events. Despite the fact that it’s slow-moving, if someone runs behind this bus, a cyclist passes by, he can stop, because he does not know what is happening, it means this technology goes a bit crazy. This is certainly a future direction and we want to strive to introduce the first autonomous bus in Jaworzno. However, this project is still in the development phase and it is difficult to give a specific date when it will happen. We are only a partner in the project, and not even a leading one. We provide the infrastructure, our know-how, knowledge and experience about buses. However, we do not autonomize this bus ourselves, but that there are companies that cooperate with us, which are keenly interested in the autonomization of public transport. Privately, I believe that the future is certainly the autonomization of rail vehicles in the first place. It seems to be the easiest thing to do now, to start with the subway, tram, train or some other means of transport moving along some specific path. The autonomous public transport system I know best is in Budapest. It is the fourth metro line and there, in fact, the trains run without a driver. Interestingly, these trains were produced at our place in Chorzów, nearby, and that underground transport works smoothly there, without drivers. Mentally you have to imagine that such an underground metro is almost like an elevator, only horizontally. So there are much less challenges when it comes to autonomization of previously mentioned means of transport than when it comes to navigating in such a normal, urban traffic.
W: Are there any plans to increase the amenities for disabled people and what are the stages of their development?
AS: I think our buses currently meet all the standards for people with disabilities available in the world. Actually, nothing more can be added to the vehicles themselves, because all these requirements that are generally available in the world these vehicles already meet. However, I see great potential for improvement when it comes to the construction of bus stops and the improvement of the bus stop infrastructure. It will certainly be worthwhile in the coming years for more bus stops to be equipped with such special pavement tiles that make it easier for disabled people to reach the bus door, so that many stops will become civilized. We have a lot of bus stops in the communication network, especially outside the city center where you get off the bus on an unpaved roadside, where there is no bus platform. There is certainly a large area that still needs to be improved. I think that we will strive together with the Municipal Road and Bridge Authority to improve bus stops infrastructure in many places so they will live up to the needs of disabled people. Generally, a standard has been adopted for the reconstruction of roads and the reconstruction of bus stops, that special platforms are built to facilitate the approach of a low-floor bus as close to the curb as possible and practically align the surface of the bus stop platform with the door in the vehicle with the floor level, and this direction is certainly the direction that in the following years will be continued because the buses already meet all the necessary requirements.
W: What distinguishes our buses from others, e.g. Katowice’s buses?
AS: Currently, all new buses that are implemented in Poland have a very similar equipment system. However, it is worth adding that the buses in Jaworzno are mostly electric vehicles. In fact, during the working day, buses with a diesel engine run mainly only in the transport peaks on line A, where there is no charger, and at weekends, only one diesel bus operates on the lines in Jaworzno, so this is a very high percentage of zero-emission vehicles. It may sound funny, but our buses are also distinguished by their color. It is very unique. The colors of the buses in Jaworzno are the only ones in the world and I think they identify our company and the city of Jaworzno.
W: When will it be possible to completely or to a greater extent eliminate buses that generate environmental pollution?
AS: As I said, there are very few diesel buses in use. I think that within a year we will put another six electric buses into circulation, and then over 80% of the buses that we will operate will be zero-emission. It seems to us that it will be a high degree of electrification. Buses with a diesel engine after the introduction of the next 6 electric buses will be only reserve vehicles and for the time being we are not planning to buy more electric buses, because first of all, we would have to get a financial support from somewhere for the purchase of such vehicles, and two it would be a bit unjustified to buy an expensive electric bus only so that it would perform, for example, 3 or 4 routes only at peak times. These buses, in order to be economically viable, should also cover a lot of kilometers and travel as much as possible, and it is known that we have a part of the buses that run only at the peak times when the most people commute to work, to school. Buying a very expensive new bus just to run in 2 or 3 hours during the day would be very economically unjustified and it's difficult for me to say when 100% of the buses in Jaworzno will be electric. Such a date has never been adopted anywhere, especially since we have a communication line that connects Chrzanów with Katowice, where it is currently not possible to locate the charger for electric buses neither in Chrzanów nor in Katowice, so this line will certainly run with diesel buses for the time being.
Charging electric bus
W: Now, a bit of an abstract question. What do you think about flying transport, and especially about flying buses.
AS: Privately, I am wondering a lot about it because maybe I am not a grandfather yet, but I am 30 years old and I can see how enormous technological progress has been made. I suspect you guys don't go to the library anymore to look for any materials in the books. I think that it isn’t happening anymore. I still remember times when the Internet was crawling. In primary school I used to go to the library and check some books, photocopy them and do tasks on the basis of them. I see how technology is evolving enormously when it comes to transport and actually in every area of our life. I used to drive an Ikarus to school. You drive an electric bus. The technological gap is huge, so I think that the development of drones may turn out to be very revolutionary. A few years ago, no one heard of drones. It was some secret military technology that we watched in sci-fi movies and now we see that drones can deliver small goods, move in large cities, e.g. between medical facilities and send samples for analysis between laboratories using drones. I see that probably in the future, transport can be carried out with such vehicles. I don’t think that this is an abstraction, but a direction of development, which to me, is fascinating. At the same time it is a threat to us, because it is some kind of competition after all. Perhaps we should start taking into consideration someday, that such taxis may start to appear, but before public transport emerges, such as a „helicopter”, well, what else can you call it. Only it is driven somehow differently, maybe quieter. This technology must be a little more developed and it will probably first expand towards individual transport, that we, like the Inspector Gadget, will have a propeller on our heads and will fly. Well, it seems to me that it may evolve in this direction. In fact an interesting question. I think the direction of development is interesting and I it’s possible to implement. We can see that these drones are more and more advanced and they carry out more and more interesting and new tasks in our public space.
W: That's it. Thank you for the interview.
In terms of buses and applications our city is up to date with modern world's smart solutions but we still have to work on some things and upgrade them. A part of bus stops is in bad shape and needs renovation. We have to make public transport accessible for all people with all kinds of conditions. Flying transport isn't as crazy idea as some people might think. Maybe we will be able to see it with our own eyes soon.
Mateusz and Łukasz