From Blacksburg Transit's VT Bus Tracker for Virginia Tech to King County Metro and the University of Washington’s One Bus Away, transit systems linked with universities seem to be leading the way with open source technology. They are not only providing real-time arrival information to riders, but also giving them mobile access, through iPhone and Android applications, as well as offering text versions, for those of us still woefully trapped in 2007 and without a smart phone. (I know, what am I thinking? I do plan to correct this soon.)
From what I can see, there is a huge disparity among transit agencies across the country in terms of the information they are providing to riders. For example, one of my local transit agencies appears to be trapped even further back in time than I am, based on the looks of its Website. Forget about bus tracking apps; there’s not even a trip planner. That takes me back to 2005 at least.
I don’t bring this up to knock any agencies; I know full well how tight funding and resources are out there, especially now. I just wonder if there is a way to get more of these transit agencies that could really benefit from sharing their open source data partnered with local tech experts who know how to turn it into easily accessed information for any rider or potential passenger.
According to Mary Meeker and other analysts at Morgan Stanley, mobile Internet use is going to overtake desktop Internet by 2014, EconomyWatch reports. Less than three years away. If the transit agencies that haven’t already reached out to their mobile phone-equipped riders don’t soon, they may risk losing them.
So, what about your agency? Are you providing mobile access to real-time info or working on it? If not, are you dealing with particular hurdles or is it just not a priority?
It drives me nuts when people litter. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people throw trash out of their car windows while they’re driving. I’m always tempted to honk my horn when I see drivers slyly ditching cigarette butts through their open window. Listen up, people. We see you!
Agencies that use Twitter to respond to users’ complaints or answer questions get more positive Twitter reaction and more civil discourse online, according to Lisa Schweitzer the author of a recent study analyzing tweets of public transit agencies. “It’s about the marketing potential of social media — a lot of public transit agencies are simply tweeting their problems to the world by blasting out late service announcements. That’s not a good use of Twitter,” she says. “Transit agencies can influence the tone of the discussion by interacting with patrons online,” Schweitzer explains. “It gives people something to respond to, and it reminds people that somebody is listening.”
Usually by early January, I will hopefully have taken down the last of our holiday decorations and eaten or given away the remaining sweets that have become a part of my regular diet during the month of December. Then, of course like most people, I’ll think about ways I want to improve myself for the coming year. Whether it be exercising more (walking from the parking lot to my office doesn’t count), eating less ice cream or managing my email better. The latter practice alone would help improve my efficiency at work immensely. I’m sure you probably feel the same way.
A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.
June 20 will mark the 8th annual National Dump the Pump Day sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, in partnership with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.