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This Week in Civic Tech: GSA Restructures to Protect Tech Programs, Can Big Data Be Biased? Therea€™s a significant disconnect between those who support mass transit and those who actually use it -- but transit-related tech is making the mode of transportation more convenient and attractive. Chicago is testing its Ventra app, which allows CTA riders to use stored fares on their Ventra cards to buy Metra tickets, work as a train-and-bus tracker and even help plan trips.
The majority of people living in and around cities overwhelmingly support public transportation systems, according to a September 2014 study by the American Public Transportation Association. Another major issue affecting transit use are the internal factors that transit managers can control. And transit-related technology is helping people make better choices and making mass transit more convenient and attractive, said Art Guzzetti, vice president of policy for the American Public Transportation Association. Knowing more through apps can really change the landscape of mass transit, said Marissa Shorenstein, New York state president for AT&T, which recently brought cell services into subway stations in New York, allowing people to stay connected while underground.
Other major cities like Atlanta, Boston, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco have all recently taken steps to adopt technology to increase ridership, and there is some evidence that it’s working. A recent study of a real-time bus arrival program in New York City found that technology does generate new trips, though mostly for high-traffic routes.
Cities are also implementing automated fare collection systems to improve the rider experience.

Chicago, for instance, is currently testing its Ventra app, which allows Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) riders to use stored fares on their Ventra cards to buy Metra commuter rail tickets, work as a train-and-bus tracker and even help plan trips. In other cities, transit authorities are focusing on using technology to help improve transit functions. No matter what type of app or technology a city employs when it comes to transit, it’s all a step in the right direction, according to Guzzetti.
As an additional convenience to CTA customers, we’re providing a mail-in option to have balances from old farecards and passes transferred to a registered Ventra Card. But while the study found that 74 percent of people support more mass transit spending, it also revealed that only 5 percent of commuters actually travel by mass transit. Those may include expansion of service areas, quality and quantity of services being provided, marketing, facilities, etc. Candace Brakewood of the City College of New York and collaborators analyzed ridership patterns following the city's rollout of its Bus Time website. CTA riders can tap their smartphone to pay for rides, add value to their Ventra accounts and store fares or passes. New Jersey Transit, for example, is developing a new mobile app that is turning smartphones into reporting tools to document incidents as they happen and allow officials to act faster to resolve them. For instance, an app called NYC Metro strips crowdsourcing of subway and bus stops down to basic elements -- Not Running, Normal, Packed and Avoid -- and color codes the stations accordingly, allowing riders to choose the best route given the current circumstances.

In other words, there’s a significant disconnect between those who support mass transit and those who actually use it. A shift in population centers and the use of technology are the two major forces behind the changing viewpoint. They found a measurable jump in ridership (around 2 percent) that works out to upward of $6.3 million in new revenue over the three-year study period.
If it works as anticipated (transit officials are projecting a June launch), it will mark the realization of a 40-year search for a fare card that's good anywhere on Chicago area mass transit.
Another app, called NYC Accessible, provides critical information that disabled riders need to get around -- where the accessible stations are, updates on elevators and escalators that are down. According to the Pew Internet Project, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone.
The app also provides a platform for the disabled community to send feedback to the MTA and tips to fellow riders. Smartphones allow people to do many things they couldn’t before when it comes to transit, such as pay for transit fares, find out when a bus arriving, check on parking availability, etc.

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