Public Transit Technology Aids Sight & Hearing Impaired Riders

Public Transit for Sight ImpairedPublic transportation is a vital service. High-quality public transit can revolutionize a community by providing efficient access to all that the city has to offer. It can provide independence, community participation, and productivity for those who could not otherwise safely operate a vehicle, including people who are sight and hearing impaired.

Most mass transit systems are primarily visually oriented—signs are posted, bus numbers are listed, and safety information is written throughout terminals. Similarly, safety and route announcements are often conveyed via intercoms. Although blind, visually impaired, and hearing-impaired individuals are still able to use public transit, a lack of access to potentially important and useful information can become a barrier to utilizing mass transit. Fortunately, innovative new technologies, such as an Internet for public transit vehicles, are working to eliminate such barriers.

Innovative Transit Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Innovative technology has greatly improved public transit for the blind and visually impaired. Interactive web-based software allows people to plan their routes via smart phones and other devices. GPS, accessed via Internet WiFi for traveling trains and buses, enables riders to monitor progress via their cell phones. GPS can also audibly announce stops and announce vehicle information at bus stops. Infrared and radio transmitters can also make it possible for visual messaging to be heard by visually impaired passersby. Information kiosks may also have audible and tactile maps, and ticket machines may have vocal output.

It may not be so far into the future that robots will help the visually impaired in mass transit terminals. Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, reports that he and others are working on a project incorporating robots, smartphones, mobile applications and more into a system to help the blind navigate complicated and unfamiliar urban environments. In the meantime, WiFi systems can help support new smart phone technology and remove mass transit access barriers.

Hearing Impaired Individuals and Uber

Hearing impaired riders often have a different set of public transportation obstacles that can be easily amended through new technology. To understand how their public transit needs could be met, let’s consider how one private company is accommodating hearing-impaired users. Uber is a transport company that connects riders with drivers securely through an app, which allows individuals to find and connect with nearby drivers. There are no cash transactions; everything is done through the convenient app, and riders can rate their drivers.

There is one catch, however. Hearing-impaired individuals have had specific frustrations with the app, as it is not very compatible with their needs. Newly added Uber features include a flashing screen for trip requests, the option for deaf drivers or riders to have a text only option, and notifications for riders when their driver is deaf or hard of hearing. These updates allow hearing-impaired individuals to access Uber as drivers and passengers, fluidly. Similar technology can be added to web-based transit software to accommodate hearing-impaired riders.

New technology and the investment in innovation are widening the opportunity for diverse range of humans to participate in navigating the vast world of mass transit!

[Photo by RadioTripPictures via CC License]

Are Philadelphia’s Millennials Shaping Public Transit Travel Trends?

Millenial Bus WiFiMillennials are a very different breed than Baby Boomers. As an example, Baby Boomers are likely to decompress upon arrival at a hotel room. In contrast, Millennials—typically defined as 18 to 34 year olds—are more prone to immediately access in-room WiFi. Online connectivity is a must-have for these younger travelers, who prefer to share travel stories on the go. Likewise, they expect instant gratification, accurate booking, and one-stop shopping, all from their handheld devices.

This up-and-coming generation is shaping the future of public transit. The 95 million Millennials in the U.S. will make up the bulk of the country’s workforce by 2025. Cities that hope to attract vibrant, young talent will need to cater to Millennials’ preferences—including their predilection for effective transit. A recent national survey found that 66% of Millennials included high quality transportation as a crucial factor in deciding where to live. That support for public transportation stems in part from the fact that Millennials are the most educated generation ever. Those with college degrees generally appreciate the conceptual reasons for maintaining strong transit, including serving under-resourced populations. Moreover, Millennials carry an average of $23,000 debt per person, so they are more willing than Baby Boomers to forgo car ownership. Their attraction to urban car-free lifestyles over suburban car commutes also supports transit.

Another clear trend among Millennials is their fondness for technology. Portland’s DHM Research has found that 47% of Millennials wouldn’t willingly give up their phones. Apps that marry convenience with on-the-go access are popular among this age bracket. For transit agencies, this means apps that allow riders to buy and redeem fares on their phones. Such public transit mobile WiFi technology also benefits transit agencies, who are able to track multiple data, such as real-time ridership statistics, for real-time capacity adjustments. With mobile WiFi hotspots providing Internet for public transit vehicles, agencies can create an interconnected web of service, with every vehicle perennially connected to management hubs. (For more information, check out SinglePoint Communications’ in-vehicle connectivity solutions.)

In general, Millennials are multimodal; they select the best transit option for each trip. Biking and walking are on the list of urban Millennials’ transit options. To understand how this might be impacting transit, let’s take a look at a case study: Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system. While the American Public Transportation Association’s 2014 ridership report found increased national ridership, Philadelphia’s transit system actually saw a slight decrease of 2% last year. In Philly, trolley ridership fell by 4%, and bus ridership was down 3% in 2014. Commuter rail ridership increased 2%. These statistics could be due to the fact that more and more Philly Millennials are bike commuting into the city center. Center City reports that bike commuting into Philadelphia has increased 33.4% from 2012 to 2014.

Fortunately, SEPTA ridership is up more recently, according to system reports. SEPTA has found a 1.3% increase in ridership over the first seven months of the 2015 fiscal year. That bump appears to be driven by regional rail (up 3.8%) and suburban transit (up 3.2%). So far, city transit is up just .6%.

To achieve ongoing ridership increases, we recommend that SEPTA and other urban transit groups add public transit mobile WiFi. Given Millennials’ hunger to stay forever online, WiFi access on buses and trains can only add public transit appeal. Moreover, those who have longer commutes into the city will be more likely to ditch their cars if they can access WiFi on the way.

[Photo by Carissa Rogers via CC License]

Public Transit Safety Gets Boost from Mobile WiFi Solutions [Infographic]

Public Transit Mobile WiFiOver 128,000 transit vehicles from 7,300 transportation agencies provided nearly 11 billion rides in 2013. As the population grows and more people move to larger cities, ridership across all modes of public transit—from buses to paratransit solutions—is on the rise. Not only does increased ridership help decrease traffic congestion, it also promotes individual safety, according to a 2014 article in the Journal of Public Transportation

This infographic examines ridership growth across the U.S. and the agencies that help make using public transportation a safe option with driver training, standards programs and technologies like public transit mobile WiFi. With solutions that provide real-time data, video feeds and training opportunities thanks to public transit WiFi, SinglePoint is helping the country’s public transit providers and passengers stay safe one mobile WiFi connection at a time.

Public Transit Mobile WiFi Safety

VTA Pioneers Public Transit Innovation in California

VTA Innovation CenterOn February 18th, transportation technology specialists from across Silicon Valley attended the grand opening for Santa Clara VTA’s new Innovation Center. SinglePoint Communication representatives took in the impressive new space, which was formerly a lunchroom and conference area. The modest room, with space enough for about ten desks, is now replete with technological gadgetry, including big screen TVs and digital workstations. The VTA aims for the Innovation Center to act as a hub where the agency can rethink how it delivers bus, rail, roadway, and other transportation services.

We were thrilled to be present for the unveiling of this new center, which will serve multiple purposes:

–It will be a living laboratory for testing new technologies in the transit field.
–The innovation center will facilitate partnerships with regional academics, startups, tech firms and nonprofits.
–It will also operate the Santa Clara VTA’s open data portal, which provides access to the agency’s operational data.
–The center will facilitate research collaboration with regional transportation organizations, including the Mineta Transportation Institute of San Jose State University, and the San Jose Environmental Innovation Center.
Finally, the Innovation Center will encourage synergistic work with civic hackers and tech startups. For instance, on June 6th, the agency will celebrate the National Day of Civic Hacking with Hack my Ride 2015, a hackathon to create data visualizations, apps, and prototypes to enhance the VTA transit experience.

Advancements from the center will be elaborated in the real world. For instance, at the Innovation Center’s grand opening, San Jose Vice Mayor and VTA board member suggested that innovations from the new center will likely be tested in the North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone, an 11-mile stretch known as testing grounds for Google’s self-driven cars. Herrera explained, “This [Innovation Center] will allow innovators to emulate real-world conditions for the testing of, for example, self-driving vehicles, automated traffic enforcement, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, street light innovations, and sensors for collecting data on traffic, noise and air quality.”

As the public transit WiFi providers for Santa Clara VTA, we were on hand to celebrate the center’s opening. Our public transit WiFi solutions were used in the world’s first all-4G WiFi transit communication system, for Santa Clara VTA buses and light rail. And our in-vehicle connectivity solutions, using GPS and SingleTRAK software, have allowed Santa Clara VTA to release an innovative new rider app that shows the real-time location of light rail trains. We look forward to watching the agency push transit technology boundaries in the upcoming years, via new the Innovation Center.

[Photo Courtesy of VTA]

Can Private Investors Pave the Way Toward Better Public Transit?

MAX at SW 19th & Yamhill public transit wifiPrivate investors have an important role to play in the future of American transportation. Our country’s economic future depends on modern transit linking cities and neighborhoods. As the American population increases by 100 million in the next four decades, we will need more effective ways to travel. Our highways are already too congested and too costly to upkeep. Private investors can step up to make high performance rail and green transit a reality.

However, any investor worth his salt knows to look before he leaps into a potential financial partnership. A such, transit leadership groups are creating white papers explaining why public transportation is a smart investment, both in terms of returns and from a broader perspective of what will benefit the economy as a whole. Based on two APTA documents, “The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation,” and “Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment,” we’re reviewing important issues for investors as they consider backing public transit projects.

Public Transit: Key Considerations for Private Investors

Growing Demand.
Since 2000, voters have approved transit ballot measures more than 72% of the time, signaling widespread support for improved transportation. Reflecting this bipartisan voter support for transit, Congress has approved public transportation funding programs such as MAP-21, even during this era of divided, gridlocked government. Overall, two thirds of Americans support intercity passenger rail, and three fourths of those in the 18-24 year old age range show support for high performance passenger rail, according to  APTA. The Millennial generation is strongly in favor of public transit; 57% of them rank convenient public transportation as a key community feature. As this younger generation advances into leadership roles, we can expect continued demand for transportation infrastructure.

Wide Range of Stable Funding Sources.
Public transportation agencies garner funding from a variety of sources, including local taxes, state tax funds, federal revenues, private capital, direct revenue, and federal lending programs. Operating revenue tends to come from local taxes and transit fares; parking fees, concessions, and advertising can also add to direct earnings. At the state level, transit funding is allotted in dedicated revenues, which are set aside expressly for public transportation, and distributed over a number of years. In other words, state transit funds are stable for multi-year planning. Over the last fifteen years, regional and local sales tax funding going toward public transportation investment has increased more than 265%. Private investors can rest assured that their capital will be going toward a financially stable enterprise in public transit.

Private/Public Partnership (P3) Success Stories.
Public/private investment models are delivering successful transit projects to communities across the U.S. In Denver, a half-cent sales tax is funding rail service expansion to the Denver Airport, and a private sector contractor is completing the project. Similar P3 success has been seen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has created improved airport service through a public/private partnership. The Maryland Transportation Authority has already completed two successful P3 projects, and is currently adding a Purple Line rail project through P3 funding. Private/public partnerships are working all over the country. Some states, such as Florida, are opting to approve entirely private transit projects. As state legislatures continue to approve funding increases for public transit, wise investors will seek P3 opportunities.

Public Transit Investment Benefits the Whole Economy.

For every dollar invested in public transit, APTA reports a $3.00 economic impact. Transportation projects employ tens of thousands of Americans; for every billion dollars of transit spending, 13,000 to 24,000 jobs are created. Reliable, efficient transportation options are required to support the country’s growth.

Private investors can play a major part in America’s transit future. However, we would recommend that investors do their homework and put funds in projects that have clearly shown staying power. For instance, on-board public transit WiFi devices access can drive up ridership and make P3 investments more successful. Public transit WiFi solutions allow passengers to connect to the web while also linking vehicles to transit hubs. WiFi-equipped vehicles are better situated to meet MAP-21 safety requirements. Finally, considering the popularity of WiFi among Millennial riders, it’s smart to ensure that any transportation project include WiFi connectivity.

[Photo by born1945 via CC License]

Public Transit & Mobile WiFi: Millennials Lead the Way [Infographic]

Public Transit Mobile WiFiFor today’s generation of Millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 34, public transportation is a way to exercise good stewardship in regards to caring for the earth, the economy and local community. As the largest generation in the nation, 70 percent of Millennials choose a mode of transportation based on their needs, making them more multimodal than Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers,  according to the American Public Transit Association’s study, “Millennials and Mobility.” Similarly, this young generation is at least two times more likely to use public transportation once a week, especially when it offers attractive amenities, such as mobile WiFi.

Millennials represent the future of American ridership, as they will pass on their stewardship values to the future. In fact, up to 80 percent of riders under the age of 40 prefer a 50-minute commute if public transit mobile WiFi is available to a 25-minute car drive. As more individuals move to urban areas to be close to work and recreational attractions, the number of quality public transportation options increase. The following infographic shows the differences in ridership across the generations and how public transit mobile WiFi is one of the most sought-after feature among Millennials.

Want to build a better commute? Learn more about SinglePoint’s hardware and software solutions for public transportation agencies.

Public Transit Mobile WiFi Infographic SinglePoint

Inner-City Transportation Challenges & Connectivity: Are We Missing the Bus?

Rosa Parks Inner City BusIn a white paper titled “Overcoming the Challenges of Inner-City Transportation,” IBM discusses the difficulties of providing reliable transportation in urban areas. Inner-city transit agencies face unique hurdles that must be overcome if our urban centers hope to support growing employment.

Challenges in Inner-City Transportation

Support More Riders with Smaller Budgets. Transit agencies’ budgets are often extremely limited. State and municipal transportation investment tends to stay low, as funding legislation stalls in committees. Yet increasing numbers of urban riders require reliable transportation options to arrive at work on time. Inner-city transit operators need new income streams to offset low budgets.

Solution: Offer complimentary train and bus WiFi to customers in exchange for advertisements. Our SingleREV system can put advertisements in front of customers to add a new income stream, funding WiFi systems.

Maintain Aging Infrastructures. Transportation assets may be decades old, yet buses and trains must continue to run reliably. IBM concludes that transportation agencies need technological solutions to effectively monitor performance metrics and avoid problems.

Solution: Train and bus WiFi systems can include GPS tracking for each vehicle, allowing for improved hub-to-vehicle communication and increased performance monitoring.

Increase Reliability. Transit agencies must reliably connect neighborhoods to commercial centers. As IBM’s research found, riders highly value consistent travel times, ranking them more important than shorter travel times.

Solution: Empower riders to see, in real time, when buses and trains are arriving via their handheld devices. Public and charter bus WiFi systems can also allow customers to purchase tickets remotely via their smartphones or other WiFi enabled gadgets. Our SingleTRAK and SinglePASS software create convenience for customers by allowing vehicle tracking and ticketing.

Appeal to the Next Generation of Riders. IBM emphasizes that Millennials now make up a majority of the workforce. Studies have shown these younger riders to be flexible in their transportation choices; 70% of them use multiple transportation modes several times per week. Moreover, Millennials consider public transportation the best way to move inside the inner-city. Transportation groups must attract millennial riders to enjoy continued success.

Solution: Green initiatives and technological improvements can entice millennial riders to take the bus or train with more consistency. This ever-connected age group appreciates reliable WiFi during travel; many Millennials would prefer a longer connected bus or train ride to a shorter, unconnected car trip.

IBM’s white paper emphasizes that lack of transportation is identified as one of the top barriers to employment. Workers who can’t get to work on time can’t hope to keep their positions. Affordable, reliable transportation is therefore a major asset that cities must consider as they compete to attract and keep skilled workers. Car transportation may not be accessible to all riders, and it turns out we don’t require car travel to grow our economies. IBM highlights a study of 42 cities across the globe where economies grew despite declining car travel. In these burghs, the use of transit has contributed to overall economic health.

To support workers and grow economies, cities must solve the transportation challenges listed in IBM’s research. Fortunately, improving technology is allowing transit agencies to find smart solutions to these inner-city transportation obstacles. Contact us today to learn how our WiFi solutions can make your transit agency more competitive.

[Photo by Paul Sableman via CC License]

U.S. Transportation Innovation Means Mobile WiFi is on the Move [Infographic]

Mobile WiFi SinglePointIn today’s connected world, the demand for WiFi access is greater than ever. With ridership growing across the board—from commuter rails to charter buses—remaining competitive is a matter of meeting this demand. Along with public transportation, emergency service personnel find increased value in WiFi-enabled vehicles. Across the country, connectivity in different modes of transportation is a reality. The following infographic explores how mobile WiFi has improved the transportation industry and meets the needs of not just riders, but service providers as well. It also shares how you can make the most of mobile WiFi solutions in your fleet.

SinglePoint_Infographic_Mobile WiFi Public Transit


Leveraging Technology to Improve America’s Transportation Infrastructure

Montrose-Brown Line mass transit wifiTransportation challenges often seem impossibly expensive to solve. For instance, accidents caused by driver error would seem to require costly solutions, such as extended employee training, and HR interventions. Capacity limits appear to demand major investments in system expansion. And it seems that America faces a huge upcoming bill for upgrading our aging transportation infrastructure. Yet more and more transit leaders are positing that technology can solve some of these problems without requiring an enormous investment.

WiFi adoption is one of several technological advances that are driving progress in American transportation. Let’s take a look at how technology, including mass transit WiFi, can help address some of our nation’s more complex transportation challenges.

Automatic Train Supervision: Preventing Crashes, Tracking Trains in Real Time.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently upgraded its train control system, typically considered to be the largest in the world, with 220 trains running simultaneously at rush hour. The MTA supports NYC subways using Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) technology. ATS includes automated traffic control, wayside signaling, automatic vehicle identification, and integrated voice/data communication. The new MTA system will allow operators to track trains in real time, for more accurate passenger information and improved coordination.

Overall, ATS is one aspect of ATC, Automatic Train Control. ATC can also include ATP, Automatic Train Protection, which can prevent crashes by limiting speed. Oftentimes, ATP systems automatically apply train breaks if the train exceeds the maximum allowed speed for more than two seconds. ATC systems may communicate through WiFi signals, fixed antenna, coded track circuits, or induction loops.

Maximizing Capacity through Technological Innovations

Light prioritization, also known as traffic signal preemption, changes traffic signals to allow certain vehicles through. GPS signals may communicate with traffic lights, or a vehicle operator may push a certain button to keep the oncoming light green. Light prioritization can speed commute times by limiting the amount of time riders must wait at traffic signals. San Antonio’s Primo rapid transit service currently uses GPS-based light prioritization to keep its high-speed commuter buses flowing through traffic. Similarly, Tyler, Texas recently installed signal coordination software that adjusts light patterns for current traffic conditions. As a result, travel delays in the city have been reduced by 49%.

Train and bus Wifi systems can also maximize capacity by improving system-wide coordination in other ways. As we highlighted in a post last month, the new PATH Control Train Center in New York City will boost system capacity by 20%, partially through longer trains and platforms, but also through system-wide communication. In the new PATH center, workers can monitor the entire 43 miles of track in the system via energy fluctuation tracking. This allows staff to schedule trains to run with less headway. Previously, passengers were used to a ten-minute gap between trains. Technology in the new control center will allow trains to run with just four minutes of headway.

By sidestepping the need to rebuild entire transit infrastructures, train and bus WiFi systems can evolve operations and improve the transportation experience. The Business Roundtable, a group of leading U.S. CEOs, calls this new approach “hybrid infrastructure,” with technology as the hybrid element, maximizing infrastructure. Transit bus WiFi and other technological innovations can improve current transportation systems without requiring exorbitant overhauls.

[Photo by Tripp via CC License]

What Can the Public Transportation Industry Learn from Uber?

At US Chamber Foundation "Data and Transportation" luncheon with reps from Uber + RideScout.Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted an event titled “Data Driven Innovation in Transportation” featuring executives from Uber, RideScout, and government transportation officials. As you may be aware, Uber is a ride service that uses a smartphone app to inform passengers of available vehicles for hire. Vehicle owners can make extra money by signing up to be an Uber driver; passengers can find convenient, affordable transportation by registering as an Uber rider. RideScout’s similar service displays public and private transportation options according to flexibility, cost, and reliability, all delivered via a smartphone app. In markets where ride sharing has been established, it is increasingly popular. For instance, in a single year, Uber has been used for 25,000 rides in the Chicago area alone.

Of these luncheon contributors, Uber has received the most press for promising to change the entire transportation market (as well as education and housing, according to some). As Farhad Manjoo recently wrote for the New York Times, Uber’s accessible software and big data could make “many modes of urban transportation cheaper, more flexible, and more widely accessible to people across the income spectrum.” By making it more affordable to select the best transportation option on a trip-by-trip basis, Uber is making car ownership less attractive. Some say it may even cause a decline in private car ownership, the holy grail of transportation scholars.

How can public transportation officials emulate Uber’s success? Read on to find out.

Public Transportation Lessons from Uber

Create options for consumers through improved technology. If riders are able to see the broad spectrum of transit options in one place, they are more likely to choose alternative transportation options. For example, SinglePoint’s technology can allow transit groups to show multiple route options via mobile phone software.

Use data to allow more rides, done more efficiently. Aggregated big data allows Uber and other ride share companies such as Lyft to display the most convenient local options. Public transit agencies could follow suit by displaying nearby buses and trains in real-time. (SinglePoint’s solution SingleTRAK is already making this a reality in markets across the U.S.)

Build ridership through smartphone-friendly software. Uber’s success is based almost entirely on mobile device usage. The idea is that riders can use Uber to find convenient, affordable transportation, from any location within a city, day or night. As Uber, Lyft, and other ride share companies suggest, passengers are eager to use their mobile devices for transit logistics. Likewise, transit groups should create software solutions for mobile ticketing, scheduling, and so forth.

Additionally, train and bus WiFi is a key differentiator in today’s transportation market. Riders are more likely to select public transit if they are able to surf the web en route. Transportation groups that have added transit bus WiFi, such as Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), enjoy increased ridership, as passengers would rather peruse the World Wide Web during their commutes than drive themselves to work.

Monitor ridership for improved resource allocation. Uber watches usage to increase the number of cars available in high-demand areas. Likewise, public transportation managers could use WiFi technology to observe ridership in real-time. If demand spikes in a certain area, additional buses or trains could be deployed to that region.

Make the payment process easy and hassle-free. When paying for Uber, riders simply leave the car. Both the rider and the driver enter payment information upon registration. This means there’s no need to fiddle with credit cards or tips upon trip completion. The rider can simply exit the vehicle and payment is transferred electronically.

Similarly, public transportation is more attractive when riders can pay for their trips via mobile devices. Our SinglePASS software solution allows riders to pay for trips and redeem purchases via their phones. No need for paper tickets, no cheaters playing the system, and no emergencies when a rider realizes he or she has run out of bus passes—just online, remote payment like Uber offers.

The popularity of these TNCs (Transportation Networking Companies) suggests that there is a real demand for transit information. If riders can easily compare reliable, real-time data on possible transportation options, they are more likely to choose alternative forms of transportation. Before the digital age, driving yourself to your destination was clearly the most convenient option. However, as information systems improve and the sharing economy comes online, we can expect to see travelers selecting shared and public transportation more often, particularly if public transit agencies adopt the digitally savvy approach of Uber.

[Photo by William Beutler via CC License]