Can apps really save us from traffic? - Mobility Lab

With the popularity of “smart cities” and tech companies getting into the transportation space, we have to ask: are apps going to make our transportation problems go away?

Two articles this morning seem to believe they can. A new app from researchers at the University of Maryland “gamifies” commuting – in other words, rewards commuters with points (and even monetary prizes, like Amazon gift cards) for using public transportation and carpooling instead of driving alone.

And Columbus, Ohio is requesting bids from tech companies to build an all-in-one transit app: the epitome of the “mobility as a service” field where users subscribe to one platform (like Netflix) to access all of their transportation options, from transit to scooters to ride-hailing.

Both of these initiatives rest on the premise that if people can access every one of their city’s transportation options in one place – and have the incentive to use them – single occupancy vehicle trips will be reduced.

Here’s an interesting line from the Washington Post story about the University of Maryland app, called incenTrip. (Aside: that is an awesome name.)

“We know that we can never build our way out of congestion,” said Lei Zhang, director of University of Maryland’s National Transportation Center and the Herbert Rabin distinguished professor of civil engineering. “There is no way we can build enough highways. Transit is good but we don’t have enough money to build all we need.”

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