Building a better bus stop

From Paris, here is a great idea to make transit a more appealing option in cities -- make the stop an attraction in itself. The main Paris transit agency, RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), has rolled out a "bus stop of the future" that offers a number of features and services while passengers wait for the bus.

In too many cities, the placement of bus stops along the road seems to be an afterthought, with the priority placed on providing a set distance between stops rather than considering the appeal of the stop location or its accessibility. Everyone has probably noticed from time to time a bus stop sign plopped next to a major road, with no sidewalk, bench, shading, or other amenity in sight, and -- to no one's surprise -- equally devoid of people.

RATP aims to attract users with a new kind of bus stop that serves as an attractive, multi-purpose public space. Its key function will still of course be to pick up and drop off passengers, but the bus stop of the future will also provide a place to purchase food and drink, access the internet, buy a transit ticket, and look up maps and information on the city, among other things. The pilot stop, located outside the Gare de Lyon, also includes a bike share station to better connect transit users to the surrounding city.

RATP's bus station design provides an example of how transit agencies can think about their systems and how they can better integrate their services with the surrounding environment. Rather than simply affixing a sign to a slab of concrete, bus stops can and should be designed as something more.

Integrating other services at transit stops can increase their use by recognizing and catering to the appeal of better accessibility, convenience, and functionality. Studies have shown that people view their time spent waiting for transit much more negatively than time spent traveling on transit itself. Making that wait less burdensome with other amenities could attract more people to the option of public transit. You can view more photos of the stop here.

~ Allison Bullock

Lanzamiento del libro "Tu Dividendo de 256.516 Millones"

Living Labs Global se complace en invitarle a la presentación del libro "Tu Dividendo de 256.516 Millones", la edición en español y actualización de nuestro libro “Connected Cities: Your 256 Billion Euro Dividend” publicado por la Universidad de Barcelona. El libro cuenta con un nuevo epílogo realizado por el profesor Xavier Torrens, en el que posiciona el libro como una contribución fundamental en el actual debate sobre la política de la innovación local y urbana.

Los autores presentarán el libro con motivo del INTA34 Congreso Mundial de Desarrollo Urbano, en Donostia-San Sebastián (España) durante la recepción de bienvenida del domingo, el próximo 24 de octubre, de 19:00-21:00 horas y en la primera sesión plenaria del miércoles, 27 de octubre. El libro ya está disponible y se puede adquirir a través de la página web de la Universidad de Barcelona o en las librerías de la Universidad de Barcelona.

Sobre este libro:

Este libro es un manual sobre innovación de servicios en ciudades dirigido al sector público y a directivos empresariales en el ámbito de servicios de innovación, especialmente para profesionales de pequeña y mediana empresa que desarrollan servicios de innovación y soluciones para ciudades.

Movilidad no es una tecnología sino un cambio de paradigma. El usuario, tanto de ciudadano, como de profesional o visitante, se encuentra en un estado de movilidad representado por la ubiquidad de los teléfonos móviles en nuestra sociedad.

¿Porque, este libro se pregunta, no han tenido éxito servicios  altamente apreciados como la gestión del aparcamiento a través de tu móvil, servicios turísticos o soluciones para la deficiencia visual, incluso a pesar de las inversiones astronómicas en infraestructuras digitales que se han hecho durante la última década? ¿Porque, no han alcanzado estas infraestructuras un impacto de productividad como el que tuvo internet en nuestras economías, cuando más del 60% de los ciudadanos del mundo tenían acceso a ellas?

256.516 millones de Euros es la suma de la oportunidad presentada en este libro, siguiendo casos de negocio reales y ejemplos de movilidad de servicios de innovación en ciudades. Dibujando desde el conocimiento y las experiencias de Living Labs Global, el libro ilustra lo que define el mercado para movilidad, abandonado por muchos por su propia complejidad. El libro estructura, de una manera lógica, las oportunidades del mercado, frustraciones y éxitos, y actores, en una llamada para la acción de cambiar fundamentalmente el modo en que prestamos los servicios en las ciudades.

Now out: Spanish Edition of our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities

Living Labs Global is pleased to invite you to the launch of the book “Tu Dividendo de 256.516 Millones”, the updated and Spanish language edition of our handbook “Connected Cities: Your 256 Billion Euro Dividend” be published by the University of Barcelona. The book features a new epilogue by Professor Xavier Torrens, placing the book as a critical contribution in the current debate on local and urban innovation policy.

We will present the book on the occasion of INTA's 34th World Urban Development Congress, in Donostia-San Sebastian (Spain) during the Welcome Reception on Sunday, October 24, 2010, from 19:00-21:00 and the first plenary session on Wednesday, October 27th.

The book is now available to order from the University of Barcelona webstore or can be bought in one of the University of Barcelona’s bookshops.

The Case of Tourism and Roaming

In our Handbook on innovation in services and mobility in cities, we published comparative data on the cost and impact of digital vs paper tourist maps. One of our conclusions is that digital mobility costs 1,011x more than paper maps. The updated table below, reflecting the latest available data on global tourism in cities (2008), shows the scale of the burden roaming poses on cities. Table taken from "Connected Cities: Your 256 Billion Euro Dividend"

Our data shows that, as an example, the 15 million international tourists visiting London in 2008 would have had to pay a total of EUR 102 billion in roaming charges to access the 22 million paper maps they collected that year. This is about 5x the total spending of tourists in London per year. Yet, the paper maps resource consumption constituted the equivalent of 19,000 trees - never mind the burden on dealing with the 1,600 hectares of discarded paper to the recycling systems.

But these numbers are fictional, since no tourist coughs up the EUR 4,550 per visit that these numbers imply. instead, visitors chose to disable data services and roaming, pick up a free paper map (subsidized by the local tourist industry), continuing to make use of all its functions: scribbling, asking for directions, sharing & tearing, and tracing their route. All that at a cost of zero Euros.

What then, has to change? In our book we argue that we need to fundamentally change the way we organise the cost of digital services in cities, eliminating roaming whilst adding significant commercial upsides to the operators to the tune of EUR 2 billion per year. Roaming is about 182x as costly as local data tariffs on prepaid plans, meaning that London could replace its paper maps for about EUR 560 million - or a mere 2.8% of tourist expenditure. These numbers do not take into account the efficiency gains in bulk-costs and data consumption by reversing our business models, which would reduce costs to around 1.4% of spending and could make London (or any other city choosing to become the first to tackle this issue) the first roaming-free tourist destination in the world.

Who would finance this? How about those that pay for the maps already dedicating a small percentage of their revenue instead to making theirs the most innovative and attractive tourist destination in the world...

Bike Abuse in Paris

[youtube] Saturday's New York Times ran an unassuming yet provocative piece on the Parisian bike-sharing system, the Velib.  It seems that Velib bikes have become the scapegoats for the underlying class-tensions that persist between the modern center city and Paris's suburban banlieusards. Of the 20,000 bikes that made up the original Velib fleet,  some 8,000 have been stolen and another 8,000 rendered irreparable the NY Times reports.  Moreover, vandalism is on the rise, in 2008 incidences of destructive vandalism to the Velib fleet increased 54 percent.

Obviously, this destruction is problematic from a maintenance and provision perspective. Paris is now digging deep in its pockets to reimburse JCDecaux, the advertising company  that presides over the Velib bike sharing service; JCDecaux reports that it repairs as many as 1,500 bicycles per day.

Putting the financial implications of this abuse aside, the reporting hints at the daunting nature of the challenge at hand, the challenge to  create new, accessible, egalitarian city services, extending new degrees of mobility to all city residents.   In the article Bruno Marloff, a sociologist who specializes in transportation, describes the phenomenon as "an outcry, a form of rebellion...There is an element of negligence that means, 'We don't have the right to mobility like other people, to get to Paris it's a huge pain, we don't have cars, and when we do, it's too expensive and too far."

Velib is is unique in that it is the largest bike sharing system of its kind with 20,000 bikes in circulation and just under 1,500 docking stations.  Since its inauguration, it offered up over 63 million unique trips, changing the way many residents and tourists  experience point to point.  And, in the city center where these stations are placed every 300 meters or so, indeed, it is quite convenient.  For those living outside Paris, however, the system falls short and in this sense, the service itself might be perceived as exclusive or privileged.

Moreover, the city or JCDecaux might have reserved the Velib bike service for Paris residents instead of extending the service to tourists [bikes are readily available to everyone, simply swipe a credit card and pay a small fee] as fending off tourists during tourism season is annoying enough without having to wrest your bike from them on your morning commute;  unlike Paris, Barcelona boldly limits its bike sharing system to city residents by introducing an annual subscription model and a 3-4 day delay in the registration process.

Online, in teh comments section of the NY times, readers were eager to condemn residents for the dubious behavior, condemn the city itself for providing a service which is not without its imperfections, condemn the phenomenon itself as an enigma or capitalist culture.

Neither here nor there, filtering one's perspective through any of these enigmatic lens cuts the real problem short and makes it easy to draw incomplete conclusions.  During a plenary session in Taiwan this last month, I whitnessed two urbanists debating the role of services in shaping city identity.  While one party was eager to dismiss them as symptomatic of our urban experience, the other bearishly declared that in modern society, city services are the cornestone through which city identity and connections are made.  The case of Paris's Velibs only serves to bolster the latter planner's claim.