Sunday, September 14, 2008

Status of public transport

The second annual Bay Area TransitCamp was an interesting venue for public transportation employees, community representatives, software developers and interested citizens to discuss all manner of subjects relating to public transportation, in particular technical, planning, communications and policy aspects. The informal venue allowed high-quality information sharing, education and brainstorming from multiple viewpoints.

Public transport companies are trying to understand how to improve their service, and communications and interactions with riders and the public in general. Political and other community representatives are trying to understand how to improve transit solutions and decrease local traffic congestion. The upcoming $10 billion California ballot initiative for high-speed rail construction is pointing up what appears to be a lack of coordinated long-term strategic planning and integration of the nine Bay Area transit authorities.

Software developers are working on applications, services and standards.

There are two kinds of transit applications: schedule information and real-time updates
Third party developers like iCaltrain are providing more user-friendly platform-portable schedule information. NextBus is moving to the next layer by providing real-time GPS-enabled vehicle location information and service alerts, nationwide, as transit providers make data available. BART is twittering service alerts and other information. MyBart is overlaying public transit data with event information, discounts and sponsor offerings.

The main Internet-enabled service is the formalization and expansion of ride share and carpool systems. There are already a few dozen of these services such as zimride, Avego, RideNow, eRideShare and GoLoco; for dynamic or planned, local or long-distance rides and already the usual a need for a meta ride share site.

TripML and DynamicRidesharing are two standards efforts under development and promulgation.

Still looks like quite a wait for PRT (personal rapid transit)

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