Real-time transit info can increase bus ridership and improve rider experience - Mobility Lab

Public buses have a lot of problems: lack of funding, congestion, and overcrowding, to name a few.

But there’s one relatively cheap thing that transit agencies can do to both radically improve passenger experience and increase ridership: provide accurate real-time information.

As in this article I wrote about how transit agencies can cheaply deliver real-time info, real-time information is important. Access to accurate real-time information turns your local bus – with the exact same schedule, speed, and frequency – into a reliable asset rather than a time-suck.

And this common-sense principle is backed up by academia, too. Numerous studies demonstrate the power of real-time information to both improve rider experience and increase ridership. Mobility Lab’s very own researcher and PhD candidate Sahar Esfandyari gives us the scoop.

Improve rider experience

How many things are worse than waiting for the bus in the rain when it was supposed to arrive five minutes ago?

Although transit agencies might struggle to keep the buses on time, providing accurate real-time information to riders is achievable, and the benefits are tenfold.

A 2011 study of Seattle found that riders who accessed real-time information on their cell phones not only perceived their wait for the bus to be shorter, but they didn’t actually wait as long, either – two whole minutes less than riders without real-time info. A 2014 study in Tampa found the same results, and that riders with real-time info experienced “significant decreases in levels of anxiety and frustration” than riders without real-time info.

I love standing in the pouring rain trying to guess if my bus will show @OCTranspoLive. 4 mins after its due your app finally tells me it’s just started the route. #transitfail

— Jackie Cunningham (@jackie_reads) February 20, 2018

(Yep, here’s an example of real-time info gone bad.)

But inaccurate real-time information doesn’t help transit agencies: if people perceive real-time information to be inaccurate, than the real-time information is just as useful as the printed bus schedule (hint: not that useful).

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