July 26 2011

A Quicker Commute on Trains and Buses: Social Media Aides Public Transportation

As technology becomes increasingly mobile, city residents are constantly in demand for information on the go.  But aside from their desire to Facebook and tweet anywhere, anytime, users are looking for ways to improve their commute, quicken their pace, and reach their destination faster.  Public agencies and private developers have responded to the call, creating a suite of tools through social media outlets and stand-alone applications that increase the transparency between riders and authorities.  Furthermore, because all of this information is mobile, riders can access the information at anytime, giving them real-time updates and information about the services that concern them the most. It’s information design that benefits both the provider and the user.

On the public agency side, a number of state agencies and transportation authorities have updated their websites for mobile access or have increased their presence across various social media networks.  Transit riders in Chicago and New York, for example, can access up-to-the-minute information, schedules, and service advisories on their smartphones or portable devices on specially designed mobile sites.  States like Massachusetts have already integrated social media into their site infrastructure, using Twitter to send out short information blasts, Flickr to show construction and documentation photos, and YouTube to broadcast videos of current or upcoming projects.  In fact, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials noted that in 2010, over 80% of the United States’s 32 state DOT’s use Twitter, 45% are on Facebook, and nearly half participate in LinkedIn or publish a regular podcast.

But state agencies aren’t the only ones bringing social media to the transport masses.  Smartphone applications are among the latest trend in providing a way to bring simplified transport data to users.  One of the biggest problems among city transit systems is when users don’t know when the next train or bus will arrive.  While some cities are beginning to roll out this technology in limited-batch test trials, private developers have already calculated live timetables based on published schedules and performance data.   Applications such as PhillySubway and iTrans can tell users exactly when the next train will arrive, helping to cut down on commutes and stop passengers from guessing.  Other noteworthy apps for New York’s extensive transit system include the KICKmap, which features separate maps for daytime and nighttime service, and Exit Strategy, which tells you where to stand on the subway so you can make the quickest exits or transfers.  New York riders have also begun leaving Yelp reviews for certain subway lines as a means to tell fellow riders which trains to love and/or avoid at all costs!

With public agencies and private developers helping to bridge the divide between social media and transport data, users and riders will be able to be more connected to the vital transport infrastructure and networks that carry them across their cities and regions every day.  What are some other examples that you’ve seen with regards to social media and transport?

Barrett Lane

Barrett Lane is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where he is pursuing a Master of City Planning with a concentration in Urban Design. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining The Grid, Barrett was the Director of Creative Content at Yipit, and most recently interned with the New York City Department of City Planning. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 at 1:19 pm and is filed under Content, Internet Marketing, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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