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Actuating human behavior in small cities

Posted on October 21st, 2015

NYC Smart City and Energy Data

10/21/2015 @Urban Future Labs, 15 MetroTech, Brooklyn

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Matt Caywood @TransitScreen spoke about using information dissemination as a method to increase use of #PublicTransit.

He first noted the high cost of #transportation and the added costs of inefficiencies (such as traffic congestion) in the transportation network. In addition, efforts to remove these inefficiencies by adding supply have a mixed, and often counterproductive, outcome. As example of the failure of this approach he cited a freeway in Houston who’s “improvement” in 2014 slowed traffic by 33%, encouraged city sprawl and induced additional demand.

By contrast, his firm emphasized Transportation Demand Management (TDM) in which riders are encourage to move from one form of transportation to another or commute at off-peak times. (One very effective example of #TDM is congestion pricing)

TransitScreen focuses on increasing the availability of real-time public transit information. They place real-time transit screens in public locations and on mobile devices. The goal is to move the information out of the train stations and into buildings so riders can better plan their trips.

He cited several studies showing the benefits of providing better transit information.

  1. The Wilson Boulevard corridor in Arlington, VA showed an increase to 47% use of public transit by publicizing the availability of public transit.
  2. Real-time information at stations for buses
    1. NYC indicate 1.7% increase in ridership on routes
    2. Chicago significant but modest increase
    3. Tampa no significant effect
    4. But all showed improved rider satisfaction as measured by perceived reliability, convenient, more control, shorten wait time

Placing of screens outside the train stations has shown benefits

  1. Parkmerced in San Francisco replaced ads with real-time transit screens in the building lobbies and has seen increased viewer engagement along with a 5% decrease in driving.
  2. Seattle Children’s hospital has a transit screen in the lobby. Interaction increased as the coffee shop in the lobby saw a 33% increase in transactions after the screen was put in place.
  3. Barclays Center, Brooklyn saw a 9% shift to public transit based on increased publicity of available transit options in a survey of likely Nets game attendees

TransitScreen also studied the Capital Bikeshare program in D.C. advising riders on the probability of a bike arriving in the next 5 minutes to add to an empty bikeshare station.  They also computed the probably of a bike being available 5 minutes from now when there is only a single bike in the station now. The probabilities were computed for different times, days of the week and weather conditions.

Matt talked about the difficult of switching one’s default mode of transportation and how better information can help. In honor of the anniversary of “Back to the Future”, the Guardian had an article elaborating on the challenges of changing transportation modes for society as a whole.


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