Public Transport Crowdsourcing

This page describes applications and uses of crowdsourcing for public transport. We’ve categorised these applications in groups based loosely on our four main types of crowdsourcing … we’ve highlighted providing real time status information and developing public transport maps because they are especially good ways to use crowdsourcing for public transport.

Examples: Crowdsourcing in Public Transport

Crowdsourced Public Transport Maps

 In many cities informal public transport systems are operated by independent companies. Often there are no official maps for these systems and little information about them is available. In this case city residents can map the routes using smart phone applications.

The World Bank has spearheaded several efforts to develop applications for mapping informal public transport networks.

  • Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Mexico City) Mapatón CDMX: Download the app, help map the routes, win prizes!

  • The Digital Matatu project used students to map Nairobi’s Matatu minibus system. The result was the first map of the city’s Matatu network. More on the Nairobi Digital Matatu project from MIT News.

  • Mexico City’s Laboratorio para la Ciudad is using a crowdsourcing application and game (game: January 29 to February 14, 2016) to develop a map of informal minibuses operating in the city. More on the project from GovLab: A Gargantuan Challenge for The Megalopolis: Mexico City calls citizens to help map its complex public bus system.

    The Laboratorio para la Ciudad is “Mexico City’s experimental office and creative think-tank” and is involved in many extremely interesting civic technology and crowdsourcing projects.

  • A group of volunteers in Managua has created a comprehensive bus map for Managua, Nicaragua. They worked with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to map 46 bus routes in Managua and Ciudad Sandino. More about the project in Grace Dobush’s article for Quartz Nicaraguans are using crowdsourcing technology to prove that a good map can change your life (July 27, 2016) and from the project website Mapanica.net.

  • Houssam Elokda and six other young Egyptians with backgrounds in economics, civil engineering, urban planning, and architecture founded the group Transport for Cairo (TfC) with the goal of being the first to map the city’s complex public transit systems—both formal and informal. Read more on the Atlantic CityLab: Young Egyptians Are Leading Cairo’s Transit Mapping Revolution by Linda Poon, 18 August 2016.

Crowdsourced Real Time Public Transport Status

Most public transport agencies provide real time status information via applications and websites. This data is generally based on automatic vehicle location data. This information can be improved by crowdsourcing vehicle location data from passengers. However, apps that crowdsource passenger data are more complex than standard travel planning apps.

Therefore, many independent transport planning applications have been developed. These apps provide status information based on vehicle location data and crowdsourced passenger data. The apps also provide additional features such as problem reporting, multimodal connections, ticketing, local information, and more, all in one application. Many of these applications use data obtained via public agency API feeds using GTFS, the General Transit Feed Specification.

A growing number of cities and public transport agencies have stopped developing their own travel planning apps and are relying on these independent apps. Independent apps have several advantages including being more powerful and updated more frequently because they are used in many cities. They are also handy for users because they do not need to download a different app for every city they visit. And, of course, they cost the public transport agency much less money!

The Boston area’s MBTA held a competition in summer 2016 to select an “endorsed” app. They evaluated the Transit App, Moovit, Swiftly and Moovel, and selected the Transit App; read more MBTA Endorses Transit App. The Transit App continues to add new features such as crowdsourced real time data.

Tiramisu Transit

Tiramisu was originally developed in 2011 and is one of the first crowdsourced public transport applications. Tiramisu pioneered the idea of having users provide comfort information such as how full the bus is and whether there are any wheelchair spaces left. It also allows users to “share traces” of their public transport trips (i.e., travel data for their trip) to help improve travel planning. It was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s RERC-APT.

Moovit

Moovit is a public transport application being used by over 35 million people in 800 cities (December 2015). It has been referred to as the “Waze of public transport”. I think Moovit originally tracked users via their mobile phones (similar to “share traces” with Tiramisu) to help improve arrival time predictions, but it looks like this is no longer done. Read more: Moovit Crowdsources Public Transit Data, So You’ll Never Get Stuck Waiting For The Bus Again – by Ariel Schwartz in FastCo Exist (5 February 2015).

Swiftly

Swiftly – the Swiftly mobile app is associated with the company’s Transitime program. The Transitime program is designed to provide more accurate vehicle arrival data for public transport agencies. In a study of San Francisco, Transitime predictions were found to be significantly more accurate than the official arrival times (read more on the Swiftly blog).

More Real Time Status Apps

  • Transit, which was formerly known as Transit App, is an excellent example of an independent travel planning app. It’s available in over 125 cities and partners with local transport operators. Transit is developing many neat features that take travel planning beyond simple journey planners. More information from their blog and website.

  • The moovel my way app allows users to search book and pay for rides in a single app. One of the strengths of moovel is its excellent interface for app-based ticketing. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler AG.

Crowdsourced Reporting

These applications allow users to provide suggestions and report problems on public transport.

GreenCityStreets Forum

The GreenCityStreets Forum was designed to collect suggestions for improving local public transport systems as part of the BusMeister project. The idea was for people to add their ideas after they learned about public transport by playing BusMeister game and using the Improve Public Transport best practices database. The crowdsourcing platform was built using Facebook. Read more: BusMeister Project Results.

SF Muni: Rate-my-Ride

Rate My Ride will allow Muni riders to provide specific feedback about any Muni trip in seconds. With a simple click to the left or right, you can rate your trip time, vehicle conditions and even the etiquette of fellow riders.

Read more: San Francisco’s Public Transit App Will Let You Rate Your Commute; by John Metcalfe, in CityLab, June 1, 2016

Swiftly

The Swiftly mobile app allows users to report problems with the transit service and then broadcasts that information along with official advisories to other users.

More Public Transport Reporting Apps

Crowdsourced Public Transport Collaboration

Collaboration is used in planning processes where users need to work together to develop good solutions to complex problems (as opposed to simply reporting a problem – see above). There are three main types of collaboration application: engagement, education and process (see our pages on collaboration). Here are some examples of collaboration applications being used to support improved public transport.

GreenCityStreets Forum

The GreenCityStreets Forum allowed users to collaborate on developing solutions and report problems. Users could suggest ideas, like and comment on ideas from others (process), and use the project’s game (engagement) and wiki to learn more about public transport so they could develop better ideas (education). The platform was built on Facebook to increase participation potential. Read more: BusMeister Project Results.

ConnectSF

ConnectSF is a long range transport planning process in San Francisco. As part of the project ConnectSF has asked people to suggest new subway lines by drawing them on a “subway vision” map. The project’s website gives information about transport and helps people get involved in the planning process. This is a good example of a collaborative application for education and engagement. More about the project from SF StreetsBlog.

MetroQuest

MetroQuest is an application that provides a suite of tools that can be used to improve the public participation process. The tools support all three types of collaboration: engagement, education and process. It’s been used for many transport projects including Toronto’s Big Move 25-year transportation plan.

Turnaround Project NYC

Transit Center: Turnaround Project

New York – Turnaround Project

The Transit Center’s Turnaround Project is an excellent example of using a variety of collaboration applications as part of a campaign to improve public transport. The apps include education and engagement. The educational section “Ride Along” is an extremely creative way of illustrating how to make bus riding better.

More Public Transport Collaboration Apps

  • TransitWiki is an excellent example of an educational resource for sharing public transport information. It is a knowledge sharing website maintained by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies with funding from the Caltrans Division of Rail and Mass Transportation. The wiki helps users identify best practices without engaging in time-consuming research or risky pilot projects.

Crowdsourced Public Transport: Act!

Example applications to encourage people to ACT on public transport.

Crowdfunding: Love Shack Bus Shelter

One way of acting to improve public transport is to support small improvements using crowdfunding. The Love Shack Bus Shelter was an early example of this approach using Kickstarter. More from our website on crowdfunded transport projects.

Crowdfunding: Trick Out My Trip 2016

ioby (In Our Back Yard), a civic crowdfunding application, and Transit Center are collaborating on Trick Out My Trip to crowdfund small improvements to public transport stops. The projects are especially good because they really involve the community, which insures that they have a lasting impact.

More about the program and other ways communities are helping improve bus shelters from the Atlantic’s City Lab article Rethinking the Bus Shelter by Jessica Leigh Hester (Aug 3, 2016). 
Transit Center report

Peer-to-Peer Transit

One way of acting is to provide public transport service via peer-to-peer networks. An excellent source of information is the September 2016 report by the Transit Center Public Interest, Private Mobility outlining how cities and transit agencies can best work with new mobility services like peer-to-peer operators.

Public Transport Games

Games are a good way to teach people about complex subjects and to engage them in the planning process. For more see our Transport Games page. Examples of public transport games include:

BusMeister Game

Our BusMeister game was designed to teach people about public transport operations. The goal was to encourage them to support public transport priority projects. It was part of a larger project that included educational resources and a user forum. Read more: BusMeister Project Results.

Brand New Subway

Brand New Subway is a network building game for developing new subway lines in New York. “The game is built upon a real map of New York City. When players build each station, the game uses a variety of data sources (census data, jobs data, existing transportation demand data, etc.) to estimate the station’s ridership. Those numbers are used to calculate a system-wide daily ridership. The game also calculates an estimated single-ride MetroCard fare, based on the construction and maintenance costs of the stations and tracks.” (from the Brand New Subway game description).

Chromaroma

Chromaroma is a game that uses Oyster Card data from London to make a game out of public transport commutes. Players register their Oyster Card and then the game tracks them as they use public transport. There are many ways public transport operators could use this sort of game to create more involved customers and encourage them to change their behaviour. It’s a fascinating idea to explore further.

Screenshot: Mobi Kid game

Mobi Kid Game

Mobi Kid game Vienna Austria

More Public Transport Games

  • Mobi Kid was a game developed by the Wiener Linien (Vienna public transport operator) designed to teach young people about the public transport network. It’s one of our Educational Games examples.

  • Mini Metro is a network building game developed by the Dinosaur Polo Club.

  • SASA, the public transport operator in the province of South Tirol (Italy) is using gamification to encourage people to ride the bus. The program tracks passengers via their mobile phones and gives rewards for travelling on the bus. It’s linked to social media. Read more from Mass Transit blog.

Blog Posts: Crowdsourcing in Public Transport

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