real-time transit mobile app

Wouldn’t it be nice if the bus was never late nor early ever again?  With real-time data in the palm of your hand, you’ll know exactly where the bus is… just five blocks away, stuck in traffic, or right around the corner. You’ll be able to plan your movements around town on public transportation more efficiently and reliably.

Here is one of the providers for the real-time open data:

market demand

There is a strong need for a mobile transit application in Nashville to help improve the lives of current and future riders. During the 2012 Transit Week, an online poll found 93% of respondents interested in a real-time mobile app, and 82% said they would be more likely to ride public transportation with real-time data in the palm of their hand.

At the same time, each MTA vehicle is equipped with an AVL unit that is broadcasting its current geographical location. There are 44 fixed routes in the MTA system with close to 9.4 million annual trips (2008) and signs point to further growth. Pew Research took a poll in May 2011 and found that 85% of Americans have a cell phone, and 42% of those people have a smartphone. Android comes in at 35% and iPhone is second at 25%. On top of that, 81% of American households have internet access. In a second report, later in 2011, it was found that 62% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 owned a smartphone.  Transit Now’s online poll found that 76% of respondents have a smartphone.

reliability and public perception improve

Taking public transportation in any city can be frustrating because you never really know when the bus will show up. Buses can be early, late, or on time. On-time performance has a direct impact on perceptions of public transportation. If a public transportation system is known to be off-schedule, public transportation is perceived as being unreliable. Also fears of potential mechanical difficulties or accidents affect public transportation’s perception as being undependable. Currently, riders are relying on fixed paper schedules, online trip planning tools, Google Maps, or some unregulated third party mobile app that just shows images of the paper schedules. In each scenario, the rider is discerning information that is based on the ideal fixed schedule.  Most of which is out-of-date.

On top of that, there are two types of riders. Captive riders are those who regularly take public transportation because they have no other choice. Health and social-economic factors play a part in this group. The other group is known as the “Choice Riders” who own a single-occupent vehicle and have both the health and economic means to travel independently. This group has two subsets. The first subset is the group that chooses to take public transportation for a variety of reasons such as saving money or easing the impact on the environment. The second subset is the group that consists of people who take public transportation out of sheer dumb luck and curiousity. Their car may be at the mechanic, or their best friend is getting married and the bachelor party takes a bus during the night. This is the group who will form strong opinions about public transportation if they have just one bad experience.

The perception of public transportation is very fragile in today’s economic climate of budget cuts, road lobbyists, and lack of a dedicated source of funds. Millions of people rely on public transportation every day. Middle Tennessee is projected to grow by another 900,000 people by 2035 and a significant percentage will be seniors. On top of that, our youth, specifically the Millennial Generation, want to live in denser, more livable urban centers where they don’t need or want a car. People also have hectic lifestyles and can’t afford to wait 30 minutes for the bus that will already take 45 minutes to get them to their destination.

the project mission

Improve the reliability of public transportation in Nashville by removing the concept of time and replacing it with precise real-time geographical locations of transit vehicles on smartphones and signs. The bus will no longer be early or late. It will be exactly where it is right now in proximity to your current location.