How Covid-19 will change how people move around cities
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Chris Bax, Citi Logik’s new CEO, talks about how Covid-19 will change how people move around cities, Australia’s experience of the pandemic and how he has found moving from a large firm to a much smaller one.
Moving from the corporate world to becoming CEO of Citi Logik
Having spent the last 25 years working for corporates developing and delivering large transport projects, becoming CEO of Citi Logik has meant that Chris Bax has had to adapt to working in a very different environment.
"I have always worked on big projects in which several companies were involved," he said. "At Citi Logik, we are a smaller but a critical part of a bigger puzzle."
The way Chris tells it, it sounds as though the move has been a refreshing change. "It's easier to adapt, get people on board and be agile in a small or medium-sized enterprise [SME]. I’ve found that people in an SME are much more outwardly focused too – less concerned about the inner workings of the company and more focused on their customers."
That external focus is important, as Chris believes global transport and urban planning challenges are so complex that no single company can solve them alone.
People tend to plan for the next ten years on the assumption that things won't change that much, whereas the pandemic has thrust us into a dynamic situation in which things change rapidly. It’s now more important than ever for planners to have accurate data on how people are moving around.
"A key challenge is the impact Covid-19 will have on how people move around cities. For example, we used to have traditional morning and afternoon peaks, and I don't think we will have those anymore,” he said. “People tend to plan for the next ten years on the assumption that things won't change that much, whereas the pandemic has thrust us into a dynamic situation in which things change rapidly. It’s now more important than ever for planners to have accurate data on how people are moving around.”
The impact of the pandemic on people movement in Australia
Chris has recently moved back to the UK from Australia, which has succeeded in getting its Covid-19 cases under control following an eight-week lockdown. Commuters there have returned to public transport in far fewer numbers than before due to concerns over social distancing, while the number of people travelling alone in vehicles is higher than before. Chris describes this as “unsustainable”, while noting that getting people back on mass transit will not be easy.
Covid-19 is not the only challenge planners need to tackle. Ride share and new mobility (eg scooters) have changed how people navigate urban spaces, while intensifying environmental concerns have led to a greater use of electric vehicles, reducing emissions, and Park & Ride (P&R) schemes mean that planners need to be able to identify future P&R sites.
Providing vital Mobile Network Data insights for those who need it
Chris is a firm believer that business is built on long term relationships and building a strong network. His role came about after he returned to the UK and posted on LinkedIn saying that he was now looking for his next challenge, which led Citi Logik's non-executive director Mark Whittaker, a former client of Chris's at Transport for London, to get in touch.
One of Chris' priorities since starting at Citi Logik has been to decide what the team should be concentrating on. "There are so many different sectors that mobile network data can provide vital insights for but as a business we need to establish the primary 5-10 solutions to focus on."
His key watchwords are teamwork and delivery. "It's very hard to build strong relationships unless you have a foundation of successful delivery," he said.
He thinks that, as a smaller firm, Citi Logik is more agile than some of the larger companies he had worked at in the past, and that this enables it to be more responsive to customers' needs. He believes that it is vital for Citi Logik to co-create solutions with customers' input, understanding their challenges and getting confirmation from them that solutions fix their problems.
Combining MND with other data sources
In the same spirit of partnership, Chris is interested in working with a broader range of firms with complementary data, highlighting payments data as one area he is excited about. Payments providers know where payments are made but little about their customers' movements before and after transactions – information that would provide important clues about their behaviour and motivation.
He is also talking to retailers about how mobile network data (MND) can help them better understand where consumers are coming from and going to in shopping centres, and to electric vehicle charging providers about how mobile network data can help put chargers in the right place to maximise revenue and enable drivers to charge their vehicles efficiently knowing they can get to their end destination safely. He is also talking to freight operators to see how they can collaborate with each other to optimise routes and avoid travelling with empty loads.
The great thing about this data is it's readily available. There is no need to dig up roads, install power cables or shut down railway stations to get it. It's already there. It's large scale, which means it's perfect for taking a strategic and holistic approach to planning decisions. While it doesn't give you the granularity on individuals that you would get with GPS, that means that it works much better from a privacy perspective.
The potential of Mobile Network data
He also wants to build relationships with global mobile network operators, who will be licensed to offer Citi Logik solutions outside the UK, using the strength of their regional and global footprints.
Chris' belief in the potential of MND was his primary motivation for joining Citi Logik. "The great thing about this data is it's readily available. There is no need to dig up roads, install power cables or shut down railway stations to get it. It's already there. It's large scale, which means it's perfect for taking a strategic and holistic approach to planning decisions. While it doesn't give you the granularity on individuals that you would get with GPS, that means that it works much better from a privacy perspective."
His message to clients and potential clients is simple: "Come and talk to us. Share your problems and let's work together to solve them."