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

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

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


Public Transit WiFi Headed Underground: Connecting Subway Commuters

Old South Ferry ReopensWiFi access is now available at Mt. Everest’s base camp, in remote Canadian national parks, and at hundreds of beaches across the globe. So why is it still impossible to get online while on the subway? Our American cities are awash with WiFi access—to such an extent that some residents complain of cell tower eyesores. Public transit WiFi is now available on many bus lines as well. Yet we are still unable to access WiFi while on the subway, or even while waiting for our trains.

With a little reflection, it’s not hard to appreciate why public transit mobile WiFi connectivity hasn’t yet penetrated underground modes of transportation. The tons of steel, stone, and concrete needed to support underground tunnels restrict the flow of WiFi signals. Today, 144 London Underground stations currently offer WiFi access, as do many of New York’s subway stations. All of New York’s 277 subway stations will be WiFi-equipped by 2017.

There are efforts underway to get more subway commuters connected in the coming years. For example, Toronto is adding WiFi to more subway stations. Three Toronto subway stations currently extend WiFi to passengers, and four more stations will be WiFi enabled this fall. By spring, all stations on Line 1 will be WiFi enabled. Sometime between 2017 and 2019, BAI Canada predicts extending WiFi access to subway tunnels.

Toronto’s stations are being wired through fiber optic cables laid down between stations and the WiFi central hub, located above Yonge station. New York’s subway stations are similarly arranged, as Boingo and Transit Wireless connect central Transit Wireless Base Station Hotels with iDAS (interior Distributed Antenna Systems) at each platform. This allows riders to connect briefly while the train pulls into a station—assuming they can navigate through a sponsoring advertisement before the brief stop ends.

However, it is still very difficult to enable WiFi access on a moving underground train. This will be the next big hurdle for public transit WiFi: to create smooth, consistent connectivity even while an underground train is in motion.

[Photo by MTAPhotos via CC License]

What Can American Public Transit Agencies Learn from Europe?

Public Transit WiFi Pictures from London, EnglandTransportation isn’t a single-player game. It involves riders, politicians, transit operators, and contractors. In such a complex schema, it’s impossible for any single group to change the whole game on their own. Transit agencies can’t expect to immediately do away with the deep-rooted infrastructure that supports America’s driving habits. Compared to Europe, American cities have far more space, and we Americans tend to see our land as something to be developed, not something to be shared (as in Europe). Still, transit agencies do have clout. They can lobby for change. Today we’re taking a look at why America’s public transportation systems lag so far behind European models. Here are a few lessons that transit agencies could learn from their European counterparts. With these differences in mind, transit groups can push for transportation improvements.

Lessons U.S. Public Transit Agencies could learn from European Transit

1. Normalize Annual Regular Fare Increases. Many European transit agencies have made it clear that riders should expect yearly fare increases, to keep up with rising operation costs. Politicians and voters in places like London now anticipate annual rate increases, so area transit agencies don’t have to struggle as much with funding. This would be a far preferable funding approach to that commonly used in the U.S.—i.e., putting off funding until dramatic funding crises arise.

2. Make Urban Environments Unfriendly to Cars. Transportation development has occurred very differently on each side of the Atlantic. Many European cities have elected to create car-free zones, pedestrian- and bike-friendly thoroughfares, and onerous fees for drivers. You can’t even drive into London or Stockholm without paying a special a car fee. Trolley drivers in Stockholm can turn upcoming lights green, forcing cars to stop. Across the continent, European cities are adding stoplights and subtracting parking spaces to make driving in city centers unappealing.

Meanwhile, American legislators continue to create a car-friendly infrastructure of highways and parking lots. Planners here are working to synchronize green lights so drivers face smoother routes. Moreover, American drivers pay far lower gas taxes and registration fees, compared to their European counterparts. By changing citizen’s behavior through driving restrictions, European cities have reduced the demand for driving, meaning less congestion and pollution in city centers.

3. Reduce Construction Costs. American transportation projects often cost twice what they would in Europe or Asia. Part of this stems from how agencies hire contractors. Because American cities rarely have in-house experts for transportation projects, they hire out for contractors early in the building process. These private contractors have little motivation to maximize quality while minimizing costs. Consider this: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is forking over $3.8 billion for one subway station, the stop at the World Trade Center. In Europe, that would be enough to build the entire second avenue line, stretching ten miles from Harlem to the financial district. If the Spanish architect who’s behind the World Trade Center project were hired in his home country, he would be required to remove all ornamentation, and design stations only for customers’ needs. Europeans value utility over style, and it helps keep their transit construction costs low.

4. Change Laws that Encourage Driving and Hamper Transit Development. Differing laws on either side of the Atlantic have a major impact on transportation development. For instance, in the U.S., roads are perennially funded with special earmarked funds, virtually guaranteeing ongoing road improvements, and ongoing reliance on cars. In contrast, European road upgrades tend to come out of a general fund, meaning that roads must compete with other interests for upgrades. This makes road funding harder to come by, and politicians even more likely to favor mass transportation.

Another example: Europe ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a worldwide commitment to reduce carbon emissions. As such, European countries are compelled to find new ways to reduce automobiles on the road, as they are a main creator of carbon emissions. The United States never ratified the Kyoto Treaty, and as such there is less pressure to cut greenhouse gas creation.

5. Upgrade Onboard Technology to Improve Operations and Attract Riders. Continual improvements-that’s a big part of why Londoners are willing to pay annual fee hikes for public transportation. American transit agencies can follow their European counterparts toward significant, worthwhile upgrades. For instance, Transport for London has developed contactless ticketing technology; soon the agency will close all its ticket booths, saving sixty million pounds annually. How is this possible?  Bus and train WiFi. Public transit mobile WiFi creates an infrastructure connecting riders to operators. Remote ticketing programs (such as our own SinglePASS) allow customers to purchase and redeem ride vouchers with no printing or labor required. Likewise, technological upgrades can lure new riders to public transit. WiFi availability is a significant draw, particularly for younger riders who would prefer a longer bus ride with Internet access to a shorter drive. Smart investments in technology can shift rider perception and encourage more people to leave their cars at home (or do away with their cars altogether).

Given the entrenched American love affair with cars, one may assume that it’s unrealistic to expect politicians to choose a European model of transportation. Yet in cities like Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, leaders recognize that fewer cars mean a better quality of life: Cleaner air, more livable cities, and less time wasted in traffic. By learning from the European habits of public transit, American transit agencies can improve operations and long-term viability.

[Photo by Justin Norris via CC License]

Can Train WiFi Help Build a Stronger Economy?

Cheyenne Frontier Days Train - Pierce, Colorado Train WiFiHigh-speed rail is key to a strong American economy going forward. As it stands, highway congestion currently costs the country $130 billion per year. What’s more, America’s population is predicted to grow by 100 million in the coming forty years. To provide for the future of convenient, affordable travel in America, the Obama administration has allocated over $10 billion for high-speed and passenger rail projects across the U.S. The goal is to provide 80% of Americans with access to a high-speed rail network within 25 years. To reach that goal, the administration has proposed an additional $53 billion investment in intercity and high-speed rail over the next six years.

That investment would be an economic boon for tens of thousands of Americans. It is estimated that 24,000 new jobs will be created for every billion dollars America invests in rail projects. The Obama administration’s proposed rail networks would be composed of four “Mega Regions,” namely:
The Midwest, linking Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis
California, linking Sacramento, the Bay Area, L.A., and San Diego
The Northeast, linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and points south
The Northwest, linking Vancouver BC, Seattle, Portland, and Eugene
From these major corridors, smaller lines would be built to connect nearby boroughs.

Of course, for this national travel strategy to work, Americans must be lured out of their cars. Many of us are accustomed to driving to regional destinations, rather than taking the train. Bus public transit WiFi research suggests that new train riders could be attracted through train WiFi. A survey of 1,000 bus riders found that 91.3% of them planned to use mobile devices while en route. Moreover, nearly half (45.7%) of riders surveyed said that WiFi is an important factor when arranging travel plans.

For both private and public transit, mobile WiFi adds real value to the customer experience. With train WiFi available, passengers can catch up on work and emails, socialize online, and enjoy online entertainment options. Considering that Americans now consume an average of 5.9 hours of digital media per day, it seems natural that passengers would prefer to ride to their destinations with WiFi access.

By luring riders to new rail options, WiFi can assist in building a stronger economy. Consider the economic growth from rail development in a single Mega Region, such as California. The state’s High-Speed Rail Authority predicts that rail construction in California over the next 25 years will result in 450,000 new permanent jobs and 600,000 full-time temporary jobs during construction. The new rail system will provide economic support for California and for the nation, especially if it is successful in luring passengers away from air and car travel. WiFi can draw in new train riders, just as it has done for bus transit groups across the country. Learn more about SinglePoint’s solutions for keeping public transit agencies connected.

[Photo by Jerry Huddleston via CC License]

The Future of Travel Begins with Public Transit Mobile WiFi

public transit mobile wifiIn 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that our computers would continue to add more data storage capabilities within in the same amount of space. His eponymous Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors you can fit on integrated circuits doubles every two years. This exponential rate of growth brings new technological possibilities to our fingertips. Consider that when Moore formulated his law, a computer could occupy an entire room; now, the same amount of data can be held on a device the size of your palm. Ever-improving computing technology also changes how we fold digital devices into our lives. Today we’re looking at how consumers’ WiFi use is shifting, and how it will continue to change going forward. We’ll look at a few big trends—big data and widespread WiFi use—and extrapolate how public transportation agencies can stay ahead of the digital curve by adapting their rider experience to new customer expectations.

Insatiable demand for mobile devices and WiFi access.
The 2013 Cisco mobile consumer study found that each American now owns an average of 3 mobile devices, up from 2.6 devices each in the 2012 study. Moreover, the number of smartphone users has shot up 21% in just one year, so that now 68% of the population uses a smartphone. Tablets and eReaders are also on the rise—the number of tablet owners alone has gone up 90% in the past year.

Not surprisingly, as our use of mobile devices increases, so does our demand for WiFi. The Cisco study found that 80% of smartphone users are now supplementing their phones’ data plans with WiFi access. The average American smartphone user now uses WiFi 44% of the time when connecting to the web.

Large volumes of mobile data.
Mobile device users don’t want to feel restricted in the types of media they can enjoy. From streaming videos, to playing games, to social media access, they want enough bandwidth to do it all, anywhere. The Cisco study’s authors predict that within the next two years, 60% of public WiFi users will access social media, while 40% will access streaming video and music.

User Acceptance of Mobile Devices via WiFi.
As Americans become increasingly comfortable using mobile devices, they are also letting down their guards against public hotspots. Today, 70% of mobile device users take advantage of public hotspots, 57% on a weekly basis. That’s a big increase over 2012, when about a third of mobile users were connecting to public hotspots. Based on its research, Cisco has predicted that 80% of all mobile users will connect to public WiFi hotspots within the next couple of years.

Increasing numbers of public hotspots.
WiFi is an important amenity that restaurants, cafes, banks, and other businesses can offer to lure and keep customers. Indeed, the Cisco research found that availability of public WiFi hotspots was “the number one challenge that mobile users have with public WiFi.”

Many public-facing businesses are recognizing WiFi as a competitive edge. This also true for public transit. WiFi used to be a luxury—just a couple of years ago, finding WiFi connectivity on the road was almost miraculous. Nowadays, however, it’s commonplace to see WiFi availability on planes, trains, and buses. And just as Moore’s Law dictates that we’ll be able to fit more computing power into smaller spaces, we can expect mobile devices to become more ubiquitous, and more users to clamor for WiFi throughout their day—at home, during the commute, at work, and at all the stops in-between.

Until now, many agencies have seen public transit mobile WiFi adoption as unrealistic. The financial hurdles to train and bus WiFi were considered too onerous to overcome. Yet those systems that have surmounted these difficulties—such as Santa Clara’s VTA—have enjoyed increasing ridership following WiFi installation. Indeed, with younger generations preferring a longer commute with WiFi access over a shorter car commute, it’s clear that transportation groups can best prepare for the future by installing WiFi systems in their fleets. Have no fear—you can step into the future of transportation without going bankrupt. We can outfit your system with revenue-boosting advertisements, which most riders are happy to watch in exchange for free WiFi access. Contact us today to learn how we can take your fleet into the future of digital connectivity.

[Photo Courtesy of Tim Adams via CC License]

Automated Vehicle Technology or Bus WiFi?

Public Transit Mobile WiFiSaturday morning cartoons predicted flying cars—but driverless cars? The future will indeed include cars that are run by computer. Many of today’s vehicles already contain many automated safety features, such as electronic stability control during skidding. However, car makers are now testing fully automated cars, in which a computer handles breaking, steering, and acceleration, so that the driver does not have to monitor operation continually.

These “autonomous” or “self-driving” vehicles are currently on the road in California, Nevada, and Florida. To keep ahead of driverless technology, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released recommendations to states on how to ensure safe testing and development.  In this blog, we examine the possible impacts automated cars could have on public transportation. We also explore the safety of automated vehicles. To conclude, we look into how automated driving, combined with WiFi availability, could drive up ridership for public transportation agencies.

Possible Effect on Public Transportation
An article in Metro Magazine suggested that the widespread adoption of driverless technology could reduce bus and train ridership levels, as individuals who now commute for the extra free time would be able to drive to the office without sacrificing productivity. Moreover, those who ride public transportation because they get nervous driving could choose to commute via driverless car. These anxious individuals might be more confident getting behind the wheel, knowing that their car’s computer would handle vehicle operation. Crash avoidance, lane centering, and other automated driving could lead to a reduction in crashes, and a corresponding drop in insurance rates, making driving more affordable as well. Congestion may also be reduced, with lower travel times for public transportation and private vehicles alike.

If cars can be driverless, why not buses? The Metro Magazine article also considers the possibility of driverless buses. Alternatively, bus “drivers” could transition into more of a public service role, answering questions and helping passengers while the vehicle’s operation is left to the on board navigation computer.

Can we really trust computers to do a better job of driving? That’s the question most consumers are asking—whether the safety of driverless cars will be reliable.

Safety of Automated Vehicles
In a March 2013 report, the NHTSA outlined the many potential safety benefits of automated vehicle technology. Essentially, the promise of driverless technology is eliminating the many crashes and deaths that are caused by human error—up to 90% of all accidents, by some estimates. A distracted driver may be too busy eating or putting on makeup to notice the alarmingly close distance of a nearby vehicle. Drivers tend to multi-task as they commute—texting is the newest deadly activity that can distract us from the road. With automated driving, a computer would be in charge of noticing events that could signal a crash. The driverless car could even communicate with an “Internet of Things”—with WiFi beacons in every highway barrier, stop sign, and lamppost—to avoid hitting structures. All without relying on inconsistent human attention.

At this point, fully automated driving technology is probably at least 20 years ahead of us. In the next decade or so, car manufacturers will continue adding semi-automated features, such as lane centering. However, drivers will still need to be available to take over in case of a technological malfunction.

In this interim leading up to driverless technology, bus WiFi can attract new converts who have switched from driving to riding public transportation for their commute. Public transit WiFi installation has been shown to increase ridership for the VTA in Santa Clara, California. Greyhound, Megabus and other for-profit transportation groups have also found WiFi to be a magnet for riders. With automated driver technology on the horizon, it’s possible more drivers will be considering a flip to public transportation. The questionable safety of automated driving technology may well persuade drivers to consider taking the bus or the train—especially if there’s WiFi on board. Finally, during the march to automated technology, we must remember that only today’s top models include these features. It’s probable that not all workers will be able to afford a driverless cars—so public transportation will be their main way of getting around.

In any case, outfitting your fleet of buses and trains with WiFi is the right choice. Not only will adding WiFi attract new riders—it will also prepare your agency for automated safety requirements. As an example, Positive Train Control (PTC) is required for most rail networks by December 2015. This automated technology is easily achieved through our line of mobile WiFi products.

[Photo by Oran Viriyincy via CC License]

Metro-Magazine Features Bus WiFi Article by SinglePoint CEO Rob Taylo

SinglePoint’s CEO Rob Taylo is a thought leader in the private/public transit mobile WiFi space. Rob’s article “Bus Wi-Fi Considerations for Transit Agencies,” was recently featured in Metro Magazine, an industry magazine catering to rail, bus, and motorcoach transit operators.

  • In his article, Rob focuses on the specific reasons why high-end bus WiFi solutions are preferable over makeshift, crude low-end approaches. Here are a few of the reasons why Rob argues for SinglePoint’s style of cutting edge public transit mobile WiFi devices:
  • Consistent fleet-wide deployment demands higher end options, such as synchronized, bird’s-eye views of public transit WiFi operations.
  • Low-end systems often suffer connectivity issues and electric problems. To maintain consistent WiFi access, rumbling buses demand world-class modem engineering. Poor antenna connections are another sign of low-end technology.
  • Simultaneous user limitations. Generic WiFi solutions are limited to accommodating a handful of users at once, but on a city bus you might need to support dozens of web-surfing passengers concurrently.
  • Finally, low-end solutions that aren’t designed for commercial use offer no way to switch to a different carrier. So, when your bus needs to cross country lines, or when a certain carrier’s network fails, low-end solutions have no way to keep the WiFi access going. SinglePoint’s WiFi technology allows for intelligent switching between carriers.

As WiFi technology is installed on more city bus systems, experts like Rob are predicting higher rates of public transit ridership. But in order to ensure that mobile bus WiFi systems operate smoothly, with no hiccups in service, it’s crucial to choose a high-end, commercial system, for the reasons Rob outlines in Metro Magazine. Learn more about SinglePoint’s public transit WiFi systems.