Mobile technology is giving public transportation a much-needed facelift.
Commuters are growing frustrated with traffic congestion and unreliable bus schedules. And transit authorities are doing something about it.
Whether or not you believe in global warming or climate change, the fact is that fewer cars on the streets and highways means safer driving conditions and less traffic backups. Since a high-capacity passenger bus can take the place of up to 36 low-occupancy vehicles, getting more people into public transportation is a top priority for many cities.
The first step in the process is improving services enough that people want to use public transportation instead of driving their cars. In addition to obvious passenger concerns such as safety and cleanliness, promptness is a major factor in many commuters’ decision.
However, clearing that first hurdle can earn public transportation some much needed momentum: the better the service, the more people want to use it. And the more people want to use it, the more money the city makes, and the service gets even better.
The age of mobile technology provides the perfect solution to the scheduling dilemma. The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority in Rochester, NY, allows waiting passengers to track their bus using text messaging and a stop ID number. The Columbia Transit Authority in Columbia, MO, recently spent $165,000 to install tracking devices in their buses, providing up-to-the-second schedule information via a specially-designed smartphone app.
Transit officials hope that the ability to track the exact route and arrival times of buses will also be an incentive for parents and children to utilize public transportation more frequently.
Whatever the clientele, and whatever the technology involved, making public transportation a viable and attractive alternative to driving is vital to solving the traffic problems of many urban areas.