public transit

Making travel information accessible in Fukuoka

Fukuoka, Japan, has a dense and well-connected bus system. With a population of roughly 1.5 million, Japan's 7th largest city is familiar with the challenges of city mobility and has taken major steps to promote public transit throughout the region. Fukuoka currently has real-time bus tracking available and has set up applications to connect residents to the route and schedule information that they need. This year, Fukuoka joined as a partner in the Living Labs Global Award (LLGA) to improve the accessibility of local travel information even further. The city's main concern is that while bus information is readily available and understandable to residents, the current interface is difficult for visitors to interpret, particularly those from abroad. Fukuoka hopes to develop a platform for local travel and tourist destinations that can be easily interpreted by visitors who are not familiar with the city or its transit system. Here are some of the features that Fukuoka would like to see included in its new system:

  • A mobile bus information system (MBIS) that is accessible to users via web browser, smartphone app, and/or other mobile display
  • Trip routing capabilities that help users identify the best route to take from origin to destination
  • Routing to tourist destinations throughout the city, including travel information for self-guided city tours
  • Easy to read bus schedules, routing, and real-time information on an interactive display
  • Advanced map interface to provide a visual of travel information and options

In the shortlist round for this year's LLGA, Fukuoka chose five showcases as nominees for the opportunity to market and launch their proposals as a pilot project within the city. One of the nominees, Eyestop, has also been chosen as a nominee for Mexico City and was featured in a post last month.

Two other shortlisted proposals, BLUEPASS and Excursion, take advantage of mobile accessibility in different ways. BLUEPASS uses Bluetooth technology to allow users to interact with transportation signage, vehicles, and stations to receive up-to-date travel information on their mobile devices. Excursion operates as a mobile app that provides the user with a listing of all possible routes and arrival times from a selected stop, or can provide a listing of routes based on the desired destination. The app is designed to be visually intuitive and uses colors and symbols to communicate information so that it can be universally understood.

Another showcase, City Screen & Media Networks by EuMediaNet, focuses on making travel information accessible through a variety of displays, from personal mobile devices to web browsers to large public display screens. Their model would allow information to be displayed in locations throughout the city so that those without a mobile device can still take advantage of Fukuoka's travel and tourist information.

Lastly, the Smart Pathfinder solution uses a mobile app interface to organize travel information by transit stop and neighborhood. In addition to the real-time bus information already offered in Fukuoka, Smart Pathfinder offers directions to a destination based on a user's preference to minimize time, cost, and/or bus transfers; has an interactive map to view a stop's surroundings or routes throughout the city; the option to plan a trip with certain sights or destinations highlighted along the way; and a rush hour alert to help users avoid heavy traffic.

What's your favorite solution for Fukuoka?

~ Allison Bullock

LLGA shortlist released

Congratulations to the nominees for the 2012 Living Labs Global Awards! Of the 700-plus entries submitted this year, 109 were selected for the next round. You can view the full list of nominees here, or select a city to see which showcases made the shortlist for a specific challenge. All 21 cities participating in this year’s awards selected a handful of projects that best address the unique urban challenges put forward this year. Below is the shortlist of showcases selected for Mexico City, which sought proposals for technologies that can capture and share real-time public transit data.

EyeStop: An adaptive bus stop that uses touch-sensitive technologies and screens, EyeStop allows transit users to interact with street furniture. The design provides access to the internet, an interactive map for looking up bus routes and schedule times, and a digital bulletin board for posting ads or other information.

MovIn Mexico City: The idea behind MovIn Mexico City is to provide a single, integrated information system to help people get around the city. All available modes of public transportation are incorporated into the system to provide one source of information for a city’s multimodal transport network. Transit users can use the system’s mobile app or website to direct them to their destination using real-time location data.

Modern Urban Transportation Information: Intelligent Transport System (ITS) solutions by Clever Devices benefit both public transit operators and passengers alike. In addition to real-time bus location information, ITS technologies allow a transit agency to monitor on-time performance, ridership, and maintenance needs for its vehicles. These systems can help fleet operators identify issues in routing and scheduling that could be improved to maximize agency resources.

Real Time Passenger Information: Vix Technology’s BusNet Real Time Information System offers real-time travel information displays at stops and stations, fleet management technologies, and smart card fare collection to allow for more efficient transit operation.

SLT-Flow: Self-Learning Traffic Flow Sensing, or SLT-Flow, is designed to detect vehicles on the road to provide cities with real-time information on traffic conditions. What’s unique about this technology is the high degree of accuracy that it can provide across several lanes of traffic, detecting accidents, traffic congestion, and vehicle flow, serving as an ideal support system for traffic management needs.

Check out these and more than 100 other exciting showcases on the LLGA 2012 nominees’ page.

~ Allison Bullock

Transit Treasure: A Win-Win for Businesses and Travelers?

This week I stumbled upon Transit Treasure, a mobile-phone based application that enhances the buying power of citizens who ride public transit while promoting businesses along transit lines through targeted discounts and advertising.  They’re billing it as a “loyalty rewards program for public transit riders,” much like a frequent flyer program but with merchants offering rewards rather than the transit provider. [vimeo w=400&h=225]

How Transit Treasure Works from Dan Miller on Vimeo.

There are three main steps to making Transit Treasure work for you.  First, you ride and record your use of public transit.  This can happen through a mobile app or by filling out a form that is emailed to you weekly.  Thirty rides in one month earn you 100 “Transit Miles.”  Second, spend at least $30 with a participating merchant (these include online merchants like GAP, JC Penney, Office Depot, and, though Transit Treasure notes that they would like to expand to local merchants as soon as possible).  Once spending $30, your 100 Transit Miles are yours; any dollar above $30 spent is converted into an additional Transit Mile.  Third, at the end of the month, Transit Miles are converted to cash and paid to you through PayPal.

Transit Treasure is available in several U.S. cities, including large metro areas like Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, and New York, but also in smaller cities like Raleigh and Nashville.

While I don’t think this app will encourage new ridership by itself, and while it will drive rewards dollars out of the local economy to online retailers, I think it has promise.  First, if they do as they say, brick-and-mortar local businesses could join the game, attracting transit riders who likely walk or bike directly by their business daily.  Imagine a “Transit Treasure” sticker in shop windows, much like Yelp stickers do today.  This small step could be what Transit Treasure needs to start attracting new riders to transit.  The more riding transit is publicized (in a positive light) and the more the private sector is motivated to do so, the more likely it is that people will start considering it as a viable option.

- Terra Curtis