Multiple mode switch – transportation’s digital revolution

By Mary Ebeling

There is a growing consensus that transportation agencies, especially transit agencies, should make schedule and arrival data more publically available to support the shift to a more seamless multimodal transportation system. This new system would offer multimodal travel options using a single platform, allowing the traveler to select a mode that best suits his or her needs on the spur of the moment. In addition, developing ways to make this data widely available to the public will make the system more efficient, as well as increase equity and accessibility across the socioeconomic spectrum.

People tend to default to a travel mode with which they are familiar—even if they are amenable to using different modes—making the task of getting information on modal options into the hands of users critical. Schedules and other mode information are incrementally becoming more accessible across the different modes as agencies make data available to the public and app developers. Transit, car share, ride share, and bike share apps abound but these apps have remained largely stand-alone until recently. The push to integrate these tools is the next step in integrating these trip-planning tools across modes.

Start-ups like Transit Screen have developed digital display technologies with real time information on transit arrival times, stop locations, and bike- and car-share locations and availability. The displays are being installed in key public locations, hotel lobbies, and employment centers. Transit Screen is also pioneering SmartWalk, which projects real-time transit screens in a wide variety of public spaces. Technology like Transit Screen increases the functionality of real-time data and could make this trip information available to travelers without smart phones or computers.

Policy makers, entrepreneurs, and advocates are thinking about ways to seamlessly weave together data to provide real-time travel information in a more holistic way. Travelers, who are embracing flexible and multimodal transport alternatives, are sure to take advantage of these new technologies as they become available.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.