Idea for Smarter Transit Fares is a Winner

Posted on July 25, 2014 by Paul Mackie - Also by this author

Contestant Earl Kaing addresses the Outside the Box judges.
Contestant Earl Kaing addresses the Outside the Box judges.
(This story by Paul Goddin, was original published by Mobility Lab.)

Transit would be better served if the pay-per-ride and unlimited fare structures that currently dominate were expanded to include more fine-tuned pricing structures similar to those offered by cell phone companies.

That was the idea that won the recent second annual Outside the Box transportation conference and competition at George Mason University’s (GMU’s) School of Public Policy.

Winner Adam Davidson, a Ph.D. student and Mobility Lab contributor, imagined transit fare plans that, similar to mobile phone carriers, might include “free nights and weekends” (that is, free off-peak rides). He was persuasive in arguing that such a scheme would suit different user needs better than the current system, incentivize transit use and increase customer satisfaction.

Contest winner Adam Davidson.
Contest winner Adam Davidson.
Davidson demonstrated how a “transit virtual network operator” could buy fares in bulk and re-sell them to customers similar to the manner in which Boost Mobile re-brands and sells minutes on Sprint’s mobile network.

“We have the technology, we just need enabling legislation," Davidson said. His plan also allows for the potential of inter-jurisdictional fare plans, which would certainly be welcomed by many transit riders.

A blue ribbon panel of judges — venture capitalist Hooks Johnston of Valhalla Partners, former Virginia Secretary of Transportation John Milliken Esq., and VP of Policy for American Public Transportation Association Art Guzzetti — narrowed the panelists down to three, who presented their transportation policy innovations.

The second-place winner of the competition was Danny Yoder, a masters of planning student at Rutgers. He explained to Mobility Lab that his entry, called SocialTransit, is “Foursquare for transit vehicles.”

Allowing transit customers to “check in” to moving trains or buses, Yoder explained how his app would link up with social networks such as Facebook, allowing social interactions among transit riders. Gamification, according to Yoder, would incentivize use of the app, which in turn would incentivize transit use and promote customer loyalty.

Secondarily, use of Yoder’s app would result in useful data regarding delays, congestion, and the ride experience, similar to the information crowd-sourced by users of Waze. Yoder estimated production of his app would cost $72,000 over 24 weeks for production of his app (Co-applicant Dorothy Kieu Le was not present at the presentation at GMU).

The third-place winner was Earl Kaing, a transportation planner at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Kaing’s entry started with an implementation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), replete with dedicated right-of-way. Next, Kaing opened up the dedicated BRT lanes to permit the use of taxis and transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft to utilize the dedicated lanes. Congestion pricing for TNCs plus taxi credits for bus riders could be utilized to control the quantities of each service on the roads. Kaing predicted that his plan would result in a decline in single-occupancy vehicle use and car ownership.

In addition to the three contest finalists, the event also featured keynote speaker Gil Penalosa, who discussed his experience in transforming automobile-centric places into pedestrian-oriented, vibrant communities.

Penalosa, former commissioner of Bogotá, Colombia, called his mission one of “dignifying the pedestrian.” Penalosa is currently executive director of 8-80 Cities, which claims that cities designed for eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds work for everyone. Penalosa said that we need to “stop building cities as though everyone was 30 and athletic.” Graduate students in GMU’s Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics (TPOL) program have recommended adoption of the eight-80 Cities concept in Arlington County, Virginia.

The winner of last year’s Outside the Box event, Josephine Kressner, Ph.D., updated the audience on her recent developments. In the past year, Kressner has completed her Ph.D., patented her concept (a new way to perform travel-demand modeling using location-based mobile phone data) and started a company called Transport Foundry. She’s currently hiring researchers for her feasibility study and can be contacted via email.

Sponsored by the family of the late Cameron Rian Hays, a George Mason University student whose life was cut short prior to graduation, Outside the Box celebrates Hays’ interest in transportation and his penchant for innovative thought.

“We want to stimulate innovation in this area,” said Brian Hays, Cameron’s father. “It’s not just about building better infrastructure, it’s about building a better country.”

Photos by M.V. Jantzen

View comments or post a comment on this story. (2 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

November 14, 2018

How Smart Tech Can Help Boost Transit Fleet Reliability

Budgets for maintaining assets and vehicles are often strained, forcing managers to make difficult repair-or-replace decisions concerning ailing fleets.

November 1, 2018

ADA sensitivity training makes drivers MCTS' 'most valuable asset'

Storylines about Milwaukee County Transit System bus operators are always consistent, involving a driver going above and beyond their job description in order to help someone in need.

October 17, 2018

Securing Railways from Cyber Attacks

The risks to railways are well-documented and substantial, and many governments around the world have adopted an aggressive posture when it comes to protecting critical infrastructure.

October 14, 2018

Safeguarding Surveillance Data So You Don’t Fall Short of the Law

The continuous growth in use of video surveillance means new challenges for data storage, and as the role of CCTV grows increasingly important, it’s critical to manage and protect in the correct way.

September 25, 2018

3 Lessons from Transit in Switzerland

I recently traveled to Switzerland to see the world’s first autonomous shuttle in operation on regular fixed-route public transportation in mixed traffic and came home with three lessons.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (2)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation