Along side technical issues like confusing route schedules and maneuvering between different ticketing systems when using various forms of public transit, initial research into the problem space revealed a significant social dimension to the current state of low patronage of public transit systems. These social issues include concerns about crime, problems related to the existing socio-economic divide and public transit's apparent disregard for the value of time - a commodity highly prized by working citizens.
These social issues do not lend themselves well to technological solutions. However, it is essential that they are addressed for the success of any technological solution. Consequently, as part of our answer to the technical issues mentioned, our goal is to provide a solution that promotes a sense of community. We believe a citizen's sense of belonging and/or ownership in a public transit system help to transcend some of the social issues and incentivizes the citizen to utilize public transit.
Efficient access to public transportation systems requires knowledge of the system's services and real-time information of the system's current state. The goal of the project is to provide the users of the system with an interactive scheduling and routing database overlaid on a graphical representation of the service area. This system could be accessed via an information kiosk at the street level equipped with an interactive touch screen map allowing users to select and plan trips on the transit system through an intuitive interface. The system should also be accessible online.
Added features of this system could include calendar sync with cell phones / PDAs using bluetooth, real-time trip planning data via cell phone, and user defined information such as area restaurants or other places of interest.
Encouraging activities such as games on buses and in ride share programs will begin to "break the ice" and create a sense of community among commuters. In addition, taking advantage of the wide spread use of music devices on mass transit systems, we propose an opt-in program that allows commuters' song lists to be displayed and made known to other riders in order to foster community building.