Smartphones Can Reduce Reliance on Driving by Making Sustainable Transit a More Flexible, Equitable and Enjoyable Experience

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: Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System.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: Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System.

The study was designed and run 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 and quarterly magazine 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 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.

“The results of this study are incredibly heartening to us and to everyone who advocates for sustainable cities. We have long found that people are pleasantly surprised once they trade in their cars for public transit. City-dwellers don’t want cars, they want choice,” explains Julia Serazio, Executive Editor of Next American City.  “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.”

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.

 “This study highlights broader implications outside of transit: that readily accessible information, thanks largely to mobile, is becoming the great democratizer of products and services,” says Neela Sakaria, Senior Vice President of Latitude. “People now expect to compare companies and brands against each other at any given moment, potentially leading them to choices they wouldn’t have previously considered. We’re seeing this trend across several studies: that most people want to make good choices – they want to be more healthy, more sustainable – and they increasingly expect mobile information to help them pick the brands and services that let them do so.”

Tech For Transit Study Findings Now Available

A complete PDF study summary is available for download at http://bit.ly/transitstudy

A discussion of findings for Latitude’s (in collaboration with Next American City) Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System study is available on Latitude’s Web site at http://www.latd.com/2011/03/16/deprivation-study-finds-access-to-real-time-mobile-information-could-raise-the-status-of-public-transit/.

Latitude 42s: Exploring the Possible World
Latitude 42s are an ongoing series of innovation studies (of which Tech for Transit is one) that Latitude publishes in the spirit of knowledge-sharing and opportunity discovery for both established companies and emerging entrepreneurs. The 42s explore how technology and new information access can redesign a range of everyday human experiences most likely to shape the future of commerce, communication, and civic life, from sustainable transit to the new sharing economy to the Internet of Things.

About the Study Partners

Next American City
Next American City is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to promoting socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth in America’s cities and examining how and why our built environment, economy, society and culture are changing. They achieve this goal through the publication of their quarterly magazine and interactive website, their emerging leaders program, events across the country, and advocacy on issues central to the future of cities. http://americancity.org

Follow Next American City on Twitter @NextAmCity and become a Facebook fan at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Next-American-City/100406143333429

Locately
GPS tracking and analytics for this study provided by Locately. http://locately.com