Friday, April 8, 2011

From Wired: Smartphones provide the illusion of control, benefit public transit.

From a Wired article today:

The study asked 18 people to surrender their cars for one week. The participants found that any autonomy lost by handing over their keys could be regained through apps providing real-time information about transit schedules, delays and shops and services along the routes...

...The point is for transit agencies to provide enough information to put riders in control of their experience and have greater choice in when and where to ride. People don’t want to feel they are at the mercy of paper schedules, even if they are, and there’s nothing worse than waiting for buses that may or may not be on time.

The implications here are huge. Going back to my previous post - if we are able to empower individuals and give them the illusion of control - really, just better information - they are much more likely to choose transit, like it, and therefore, support it. This is just one way to target one segment of Metro riders - not everyone has a smartphone, and certainly not everyone is interested in using it to ride transit. For one segment, though, this would be a lifeline.

As a next step, how about apps for all major mobile phones, tied in with GPS, that provide:
  1. Nearest stop for bus or Metrolink
  2. Time of next departure
  3. Routing via Google Maps
  4. Points of interest nearby, including restaurants, stores, and cultural activities
Improving Metrolink isn't about replacing cars. For 99.99% of the population, trying to convince them to give up their car is tilting at windmills. We simply don't live in a city that's built for walking, biking, and transit only - unless you've got a lot of time or don't mind missing a lot. We can, however, turn even occasional users into supporters of transit as a concept and alternative. Seems that this is one way to do it.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with you on principle, the applications you're describing already exist and are usable in St. Louis. Enter Google Maps for iOS and Android. gMaps also has a mobile site for those riders without iPhones or Droids.

    Since these applications are readily available for use in St. Louis, is there a connection between their existence and increased/decreased ridership?

    I'd have to say hardly. Sure they're convenience. I use my Droid to plot routes all day long but I'd wager that the majority of transit riders in any city are without smart phones.

    Yes, transit maps in ones pocket makes the entire experience appear less intimidating but what about truly making the experience less intimidating? What about increasing the pedestrian experience around station stops? What about fostering development within walking distance of Metro stations?

    Transit oriented development can provide a long term (rather than St Louis band aid) solution to the low rider dilemma you're discussing.