Next American City / Latitude 42: Tech for Transit: Designing a Future SystemBy Mikyo Butler September 22, 2010
Transportation is an essential part of human life; it influences where we live, where we work, how we socialize, our personal finances, and our general quality of life on a day-to-day basis. It also has an enormous impact on the environment—automobile emissions represent a leading cause of global warming. What’s more, owning a car is sometimes a hassle instead of a benefit, and it costs a bundle:
Car-sharing services and green car companies have made worthy progress to minimize the various downsides of car ownership, but there are significant, untapped opportunities for alternative (non-automobile) transit options to improve our everyday experiences and spare the environment. In this spirit, Latitude is conducting a study to investigate how cities, transportation providers and technology companies can encourage use of more sustainable transit already in existence (from walking to biking to ride-sharing programs and beyond) and improve the design of transportation so that various modes work together as a fluid system, offering real value to individuals’ lives.
Central Study Questions
- What are the various options for alternative (more sustainable) transportation these days, and how can cities encourage people to use them?
- What role can Web, mobile, real-time, and location-aware technologies play in improving transit experiences?
- How we can better design various transportion modes to function together, creating a fully integrated and more intelligent system of transportation?
Participate in the Study!
This study is no longer accepting participants. Thanks to all who signed up!
Selected participants living and working in the Boston or San Francisco metro areas will agree not to use their cars at all for one week; instead, they’ll have to rely on alternative transportation options (like walking, biking, public transportation, ride-sharing, etc.)—not to mention their own creativity and resourcefulness—to get around. Latitude will collect their experiences—successes, frustrations, innovative suggestions—to learn more about how we could all experience transit as a more practical, integrated and sustainable system. As with all Latitude 42 studies, results will be published openly in the spirit of knowledge-sharing and opportunity discovery.
Incentives for Participating
- 1 in 10 chance to win an iPad (one participant from each city will receive an iPad)
- Discover your city in new ways, and receive up to $100 in reimbursements for alternate (non-automobile) transportation costs (e.g. public transit passes, bike rentals, etc.)
- Be featured in a publicized study!
- Get to know your city better, and live a more sustainable lifestyle (at least for one week)
- Must use a car regularly (no car-share members, sorry!)
- Must live and work within either the Boston or San Francisco metro areas
- Must be able to carry out normal, everyday activities without a car by using alternate transit methods (walking, biking, public transit, ride-sharing, etc.—anything but driving)
- Must be available for the study (willing to not drive a car at all) from Monday, November 1st – Sunday, November 7th
- Must be willing to participate in surveys and interviews before, during and after the week of the study.
- Must be willing to be featured in all study-related content—this may entail providing an appropriate headshot of yourself, capturing video documentary, and appearing in post-study interviews about the experience. (*You may request that Latitude not publish your real name, but your likeness and any study/interview content—including video, audio, text—may be featured.)
Why Boston and San Francisco?
These two cities were chosen, in part, because of their recent work to improve transit in an innovative, tech-oriented, and open manner. Some recent developments include:
- Earlier this year, Boston’s Livable Streets Alliance collaborated with MassDOT (Massachusetts Department of Transportation) on a “Transit 2.0″ talk to discuss the city’s open development initiatives—current successes and future plans—to make use of newly open data around public transportation. Thus far, MassDOT has placed special emphasis on creating mobile technologies to improve user experiences and increase usage of the city’s bus, subway and commuter rail lines. (Livable Streets’ calendar of community events is here.)
- In the past, Boston has been marked as a notoriously poor biking city, but MassBike is working to change all that. In July, Boston received $3M in federal funding for its planned bike-sharing program.
- The city of San Francisco just broke ground on a $4-billion Transbay Transit Center to connect eight Bay Area counties and the State of California through 11 transit systems: AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, Greyhound, Muni, SamTrans, WestCAT Lynx, Amtrak, Paratransit and future High Speed Rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim. Additionally, the project aims to “create a new neighborhood with homes, offices, parks and shops surrounding the new Transit Center.”
- San Francisco is also implementing sophisticated technology solutions like “supply-and-demand,” variable pricing for parking meters (SFPark) to improve traffic and parking conditions for drivers, and to discourage people from driving into urban areas that can easily be accessed through other means of transportation: “A network of wireless sensors let the city keep track of which parking spots are empty. If a particular block never has available spots, the city raises the meter rates until it does. In places where parking is plentiful, rates fall. As an added bonus, this information-age system lets residents check the rates and availability of parking online before deciding to drive.”
Other Related Resources and Initiatives
- Interest in alternative transit projects has also increased with the Centers for Disease Control’s efforts to fight obesity. The agency acknowledges the importance of well-designed communities and more “active transportation systems,” which can help an increasingly health-conscious nation burn calories naturally—as a function of everyday routines.
- Front Seat, a company that produces “software for civic life,” allows users to evaluate urban locations in terms of transportation options with a Walk Score and, more recently, a Transit Score.
- City-Go-Round (also by Front Seat) is a tool that lets users know which mobile apps are available for the transit systems they use. It also informs developers which transit agencies do and don’t provide open data.
Latitude is an international research consultancy exploring how new information and communications technologies can enhance human experiences. Latitude’s user-centered research approach unites generative, media-based methods with robust quantitative analysis to identify concrete opportunities for Web-based innovation. “Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System” is one installment of Latitude 42s, an ongoing series of open innovation research studies which Latitude publishes in the spirit of knowledge-sharing and opportunity discovery. For more information on this study and its applications to your business, email Neela Sakaria.