Operating out of Brisbane, Australia as a leader in the Trapeze Group, Ben is responsible for overseeing the rail business in Australia and New Zealand.
So how do you describe what it is that you do to family, friends, and strangers?
I typically say I work for a company that specializes in providing technology for trains, buses, taxis, ferries, airports, etc. I explain that there’s a lot of technology behind how people get from point A to point B and that we provide the technology that helps people remain mobile.
What is it about people transportation that excites you?
It’s about the experience it provides; transportation connects people with the cities they live in and visit. Say for example you’re visiting London or Hong Kong or New York or Chicago – all very popular travel destinations. It would be impossible to fully experience these cities without the help of transportation to get you from Point A to Point B. You would only be able to experience a fraction of it, and probably only about as much as you could potentially walk. And, if you look at the growth of any city anywhere in the world, being able to move people from Point A to point B is crucial to the economic growth of that city. So I get excited about how people transportation makes those connections at a human level to the environments we live in and work in.
You’ve had an interesting career journey, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Well, I started out with a degree in psychology and anthropology and was selling photocopiers door-to-door. So definitely not your typical entry into the industry! [Laughs.] I figured out pretty quickly though that selling photocopiers wasn’t going to be my thing. Which is when I heard about an open sales position with Trapeze Group in Toronto (Canada) and decided to apply.
Before then I hadn’t really given public transportation much thought. It was only during the interview phase that I began to realize just how critical a role public transportation plays in our cities and regions, and more importantly, for me personally. It was public transportation that enabled me to get from the small town I lived in to this job interview with Trapeze in the city. And before that, from home to school, and back again. Public transportation became personal to me.
This got me really excited. I didn’t have any knowledge about the technology behind the systems, but I knew there was a lot of it and that it was pretty complex. And I knew I wanted to be a part of the process in helping public transportation organizations buy the right technology to help run their systems more efficiently and move more people.
So you got the job?
I did! And then spent the next few years learning as much as I could about public transportation throughout North America. During this time I worked closely with a number of great systems in Canada and the USA like York Region Transit, Miami-Dade, Maryland Transport Administration, Delaware Transit Corporation and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. I was also exposed to other people transportation systems in Europe and elsewhere through collaboration with colleagues in other parts of the world and organizations like UITP.
Then in 2016 I was asked if I would be interested in helping to build up Trapeze’s presence in the Australasia region — the company was still in its early stages there. So I packed my bags (and my dog Pasha) and moved ‘down under’ to Trapeze Group in Brisbane, Australia.
My geographic scope has grown immensely since then. It now includes the greater Asia Pacific area, India, Africa, and the UAE. I have also started to focus more of my time on the Rail sector exploring that particular segment’s unique challenges which I am really enjoying. Modaxo is really investing in the Rail sector and that’s pretty exciting.
So what are some of the challenges Rail is facing today?
The biggest challenge, like everywhere else you look in the world, is the COVID-19 situation and its impact on ridership and funding models. How do you fund rail when you don’t have the revenue being generated from passengers because ridership is down? What needs to change there? How do you get ridership back?
We need to bring back confidence in our rail systems as being safe and reliable. We also need to take a serious look at how our systems are funded in general.
The trickledown effect is that we need to get better at managing costs and efficiencies and ensuring Rail remains an attractive transportation option for people. That last bit has become even more important during this pandemic if we want to bring back passenger demand.