As part of Interactions’ role in the EU urban sustainable travel initiative CIVITAS PLUS , we investigated the variety and use of digital media and smart apps in engaging citizens and encouraging ‘smarter travel’. The results provide for interesting reading. As a result, we created the ‘Interactions Smart Travel Apps Directory’, regularly updated at www.interactions.ie, providing the latest smart apps in terms of mode, brief description and origin.
Our market research also revealed that local authorities are becoming more open on their policies and information. Moving on from traditional approaches of ‘we decide what is good for you’ or ‘tell us what you think is good and we will take care of it’, they are now active in facilitating, enabling and empowering people to identify issues, solve problems, and come up with their own innovative ideas.
Of course, social media has played a huge role in this ‘transfer of power’ into the hands of residents. From tweet/retweeting, writing a blogs, sharing links, photo and videos to self-organising, submitting information, reporting problems and creating solutions, people can now post, share and influence information informally and easily. Many service providers and planners are now taking a proactive role and allowing citizens to interact through their websites. Such user generated information can be very useful for authorities, e.g., FixMyTransport is a website that invites passengers to report issues and concerns with public transport.
Transport Authorities, for their part, have developed apps that encourage people to make sustainable transport choices (e.g. TubeDeluxe). Many of these apps go beyond purely providing information. They now offer extras like enabling passengers to share real-time information with each other (e.g. how crowded a bus is www.tiramisutransit.com, or how much you have saved in carbon emissions – www.alkilabs.com/greenrider.html).
The phenomenon known as ‘crowd-sourcing’ not only generates solutions quickly, it integrates the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people. The New York City Bike Share scheme invited users to pin where they wanted a bike share station. They got 10,000 suggestions and 45000 clicks of support. Such use of social networking sites and collaborative software can help citizens think about, design, and build the kind of communities they want. Other good examples of this can be found in US cities such as the ‘Change by Us’ programme running in New York, Phoenix and Philadelphia.
Some forward-thinking planners go a step further and share their data (e.g., travel data), encouraging people to develop their own apps and share with other users, making travel more sustainable. Boston’s Hubway bikeshare system published a massive file of historic trip data and invited riders and developers to turn the information into something useful with a data visualization challenge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PlHZJ3hhlI.
Games are another way of engaging with members of the public and can serve as an educational tool, getting people to think about their behaviour and rewarding them for making changes. Games for Change facilitates the creation and distribution of games developed for ‘social good’. An example is ‘Commons’, a game for urban communities where players compete with one another to recommend improvements for their city.
Over the coming weeks we will be reviewing ‘The Best Of Smarter Travel Apps…’ in terms of cycling, train, bus, car, foot or multi-modal. In the meantime, visit our ‘Smart Travel Apps Directory’ on our website www.interactions.ie to get an overview of what’s available around the world. What’s more, if you know of any good Smart Travel Apps, let us know and we’ll add them to the list.