Real-time Mobile Information Offers New Benefits to Car Owners

Access to real-time and mobile information is infusing alternative transit with a range of benefits traditionally reserved for car ownership, according to a new study called Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System.”

The study was done by Latitude, an international research consultancy, as part of their ongoing Latitude 42s: Exploring the Possible World innovation series, and was published in collaboration with Next American City, a non-profit organization advocating for sustainable cities. Latitude helps clients create engaging content, software and technology that harness the possibilities of the Web.

The study asked regular drivers from Boston and San Francisco to give up their cars for one week. Participants in the deprivation study completed surveys about their attitudes and experiences before, during and after the car-free week and contributed to online discussion groups with other participants to chronicle their experiences.

The beauty of deprivation as a study design is that it’s so immersive and experiential, and it can’t be fully recreated through thought experiments or role-playing scenarios,” said Marina Miloslavsky, senior research analyst at Latitude. By following our participants through every step of the lifestyle change, we were able to get a real-time glimpse into this novel situation and the poignant insights that arose from it.”

The goal of the study was to learn how new technologies and improved information access could enhance transit experiences, and uncover how cities, transportation providers and technology companies can work together to develop these information-based solutions to encourage adoption of more sustainable transit.

I hope these results will inspire drivers around the nation to try leaving their cars at home and explore their cities using other means, and I hope this will inspire officials debating whether to invest in public transit to expand their systems, now that we’ve shown that people want options,” said Julia Serazio, executive editor of Next American City.

Key business opportunities from the study include:
* Apps that Enable Aspirations (and Make It Easy to be Good): Developing car-free lifestyles helped participants fulfill other social or personal aspirations such as helping the environment, curbing their budgets and improving their health. A wide range of existing and future apps can help people to track their progress and make good, knowledgeable choices in real-time (e.g., by evaluating one’s carbon footprint, recording calories burned, etc.).

* Collaborations Between Competing” Entities: Participants expressed a desire for one-stop,  mobile information shops that would allow people to make more informed decisions on-the-go (e.g., by comparing information across public transit offerings, car-sharing or ride-sharing services, etc.). Government and private-sector entities should collaborate on these kinds of resources, enabling users to choose among multiple and sometimes competing options by comparing schedules, cost, availability, and convenience.

* Connections Between Transit and Other Local Information: Routes and schedules are a good start, but local area information can make car-free transit even more enjoyable. This might include dispatches about local or route-specific stores, public resources, business openings, promotions, and events. This data will increase convenience for users, boost the local economy, and foster positive opportunities for community discovery and a greater sense of connection to the places where we live.

By Team
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