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Using Technology to Revolutionize Public Transportation

By Kari Watkins

Abstract

Public transportation could be an important component of a solution to providing mobility while reducing traffic congestion and the environmental impact of transportation. However, from a customer perspective, a mobility choice is only a choice if it is fast, comfortable and reliable. This research looks at the reliability of public transportation and the use of easy-to-access information to combat the inherent unreliability and other barriers to increased use that exist in the system. The first section investigates the characteristics of transit service that are associated with on-time performance. The second and third sections discuss results of a survey and wait time assessment of OneBusAway, a real-time next bus countdown information source. The results of the survey indicate that OneBusAway users have an increased satisfaction with public transportation, as well as a perception of a decreased waiting time, increased number of transit trips per week, increased feelings of safety, and an increased distance walked compared with before they used OneBusAway. The follow-up study finds that for riders without real-time information, perceived wait time is greater than measured wait time. However, riders using real-time information do not perceive their wait time to be longer than their measured wait time. In addition, mobile real-time information reduces not only the perceived wait time, but also the actual wait time experienced by customers. The final three sections discuss other potential transit information tools that overcome the barriers to increased public transportation use. The Explore tool, an Attractions Search Tool, is described. Explore makes use of an underlying trip planner to search online databases of local restaurants, shopping, parks and other amenities based on transit availability from the user’s origin. In the fifth and sixth sections, the Value Sensitive Design process is used to brainstorm and assess additional transit tools from the user and the bus driver perspective. As a whole, this work gives credence to the notion that the power of improved access to information can help overcome the barriers to increased transit use.

Topics: Transit, Public Transportation, Real-time Information, Wait Time, Value Sensitive Design, Transportation, Open Data
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:digital.lib.washington.edu:1773/16613
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