Open Data Increases Public Transit Use

Reset readers know that we strongly advocate open data, and we often geek out over data sets. Now, a new study shows that better transportation apps and more data encourage people to use public transit.

A Latitude study of commuters in Boston and San Francisco found people are more willing to ride transit when they have tools to manage their commutes effectively. The study asked 18 people to surrender their cars for one week, and the participants found that easy access to real-time travel schedules can make commuting easier. By giving riders information, transit agencies empower users and put them in control of their experience.

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Riders don’t want to be tied down by excel sheets of schedules – they want real time data on when their bus will arrive. With transit apps, transit agencies can drastically improve their ridership experience and make riding public transit a more attractive option.

Reset San Francisco Founder Phil Ting discusses the importance of information for making our city faster, smarter, easier – and actually happier. Read his blog here.

A growing number of cities, including San Francisco, offer real-time schedule information and updates on delays at stations, online and via Smartphone apps. Los Angeles’ Metro Nextrip is working to add QR codes to bus stop signs that will show bus schedules. Passengers will scan the QR code with their phone to see real-time data on bus arrival times.

Smartphone Apps Help Get Commuters Out of Their Cars and Onto Public Transit

When the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority created over 30 data apps, they did more than increase riders’ access to real-time data – they’ve actually increased public transit ridership. This May, MBTA reported the busiest month for bus ridership in almost a decade. State transportation officials attributed the increase in part to new cell phone apps that tell passengers when the next bus is arriving.

Increase in Ridership Means Increase in Revenue

While Muni riders know data is no substitute for frequent, reliable service; Smartphone apps can prove vital in attracting new riders. Latitude’s study showed that while participants valued the freedom a car provides real-time transit information can replicate this sense of freedom without needing to own a car. And with San Francisco’s MTA deficit at $22 million this year, more incentives to get the community on board would benefit our economy, our environment and our sense of community.


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