Happy Dump the Pump Day

June 15th, 2017 marks the 12th annual national Dump the Pump Day, an opportunity for more riders – or potential riders – to leave their car at home and explore commuting alternatives.

For many of us, especially those who work in public transit or city planning, every day is Dump the Pump day. We walk, we cycle, we ride transit – and yes, we occasionally drive. But for many more Americans, Dump the Pump Day is a chance to see what life can be like when your world does not revolve around your car.

 

shutterstock_111419282

 

There are many compelling arguments you can use to convince your communities to dump the pump. The benefits of forgoing your car for public transit or other shared mobility services are profound. Let’s start with money, the environment, and our waistlines.

 

shutterstock_410140204

 

Financial Reasons to Dump the Pump

– According to the American Public Transit Association, a two-person household can save an average of $9,797 annually by downsizing to one car.

– From a public financing perspective, every dollar spent on public transit generates approximately $4 in economic returns.

Environmental Reasons to Dump the Pump

– Each year, public transit riders reduce our nation’s carbon footprint by 37 million metric tons. To put that into perspective, an equivalent savings would be achieved if the cities of New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Denver stopped using electricity.

– If you have a 20-mile roundtrip commute, taking public transit instead of driving will reduce your annual carbon emissions by 4,800 pounds.

– Eliminating a second car can reduce your household carbon emissions by 10-30 percent each year.

 

 

shutterstock_572190883

 

Personal Health Reasons to Dump the Pump

– A recent study by the University of Illinois found that increasing public transit use in a given community by only 1% will lower the obesity rate by 0.2%.

– Individuals who use public transportation get over three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who don’t (approximately 19 minutes, as opposed to six) by walking to stops and final destinations.

– Bus-related accidents have one-twentieth the passenger fatality rates of automobile travel.

 

The goal behind Dump the Pump day is not to force anyone to ride transit or to punish oil companies. The underlying idea is to promote awareness of other commuting options and give individuals the opportunity to see the positive financial, ecological and health impacts of less driving – if only for one day. By promoting Dump the Pump day in your community and encouraging potential riders to try transit, everybody benefits.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

How Mobile Ticketing Can Prevent Discounted Fare Fraud

The transit sector is leveraging mobile ticketing to solve front-end problems and improve customer experiences. We’ve seen transit agencies across the country roll out mobile apps to offer their riders a more convenient, secure, and seamless ticketing process. However, most transit agencies aren’t aware of how much they could improve back-end operations with a mobile solution.

 

During the recent APTA Fare Collection/Revenue Management and TransITech conference, I spoke directly to transit agency decision-makers about their operational pain points and how the benefits of mobile ticketing can reach beyond just the rider experience. Effectively managing reduced fare programs – a consistent source of fare fraud – is one of the most common issues agencies face, yet solving the problem with mobile technology doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar.

 

The pain points of reduced fare programs
Most transit agencies offer various discounted fare products to riders who meet specific eligibility requirements. Common cases include student passes, reduced fares for senior or disabled citizens, and employee benefit programs. Any agency employee who has experience managing discounted passes understands how intensive the process can be, and the multitude of challenges it poses.

 

When an agency purchases discounted cards and passes, the products first go through an encoding process, then are stored in a secure facility. Revenue operations staff have to count, pack, and seal bulk orders of these discounted passes, and along with an armed police officer, they transport them to sales locations. Once the products arrive at each location, clerks and supervisors go through stacks of passes at the beginning and end of each day, manually counting the inventory to confirm that nothing is missing. This daily tracking process takes hours and costs agencies millions of dollars annually. And there is still internal fraud and theft.

 

Managing lists of customers who are eligible to purchase discounted fare products is another cumbersome process. Fare fraud has, understandably, made agencies cautious when distributing discounted passes. Unfortunately, that means eligible riders have more hoops to jump through when proving their eligibility.

 

But say you ironed out every logistical issue – the challenge of riders stealing and sharing reduced cards and tickets still exists. Over the past 15 years of working in this field, I’ve found that if an agency provides discounted passes, they have problems with unauthorized purchases and unauthorized use. It’s a given. Grandkids are using their grandparents’ senior passes; non-students are getting ahold of student passes (from UC Berkeley to Chicago) – all at the expense of transit agencies.

 

Earlier this year, the public transport authority in Perth, Australia, found that hundreds of commuters were using discounted SmartRider cards illegally. Some riders owe the agency more than ten thousand Australian dollars for accumulated stolen travel. As long as discounted fare products reside on physical cards, they’re vulnerable to fraud.

 

A mobile solution
Agencies should adopt an integrated mobile solution instead of a stand-alone ticketing app to solve these challenges. Mobile ticketing combined with a centralized web-based portal for back-end operational control would enable transit agencies to create and manage online inventories of reduced fare products more efficiently and securely. Imagine a mobile app for your riders and a web app for your employees. Gone would be the days of manually transporting, storing, and counting stacks of passes.

 

From an online portal, agencies could distribute discounts to eligible riders’ mobile devices, or instantly rescind discounted passes from any user who does not meet the eligibility requirements. Mobile ticketing also eliminates pass sharing, since it’s virtually unheard of to share your smartphone. On the rider’s end, a single mobile app can house everything they need to travel, from schedules to tickets – all updating in real-time.

 

So what you’ve heard time and time again is true – mobile ticketing is ideal for riders. But it’s also perfect for agencies. Eliminate theft, fraud, and inefficient logistics in one fell swoop. The key is opting for a complete solution that will streamline both customer experiences and back-end operations.

 

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

An Ideal Mobility App: Thoughts from the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

The virtual automobile. My guess is that you’re picturing a teenager wearing a virtual reality headset, holding an imaginary steering wheel in thin air. Instead, try thinking of a mobile solution that gives you all of the benefits of a car – like freedom and impulsivity – without owning the physical vehicle. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) 96th Annual Meeting and participate on a panel with Dr. Kari Watkins from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech. We theorized about the ideal mobility app, or a seamless mobility application and network that would create the feeling of a virtual automobile.

If you ask the designers who create the UX/UI of our apps at moovel, they will tell you that the ideal app is no app at all. It’s whatever requires the least amount of input from a customer, like walking through the subway turnstile without taking your phone out of your pocket. But to keep the panel conversation a bit more practical, I wanted to hone in on three key requirements for an app to be ideal: scalability, accessibility, and standardization.
 
SCALABILITY
 
This hypothetical mobility app should be scalable in a few different ways. For one, it needs to meet the needs of every type of user. A tech-savvy power user who opts into sharing all of their information will want a robust application that predicts their behavior, sends them unprompted reminders and updates, and integrates with other aspects of their everyday lives. On the other hand, casual users should still fully benefit from the app’s most basic functionalities. They need to get from point A to point efficiently and reliably. It will also need to be scalable from a development and business standpoint. Can it support thousands, or even millions, of users? Can it be implemented across transportation systems of all sizes and designs? No two cities have the same transit needs, so the ideal app must be flexible and customizable.
 
ACCESSIBILITY
 
Today’s most effective mobile apps are also useful and accessible across all capability levels. The elderly, visually impaired, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities should be able to easily navigate the interface and key features. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most developers since mobile apps are required by law to be compliant with standards in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). According to a recent study by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies, 71 percent of people with disabilities use a smartphone (a more detailed breakdown of disability types is included in the linked report). It’s great to see digital transportation companies taking steps to meet these needs. For instance, Lyft builds accessibility into their app’s user interface during initial development, and the company even has a dedicated accessibility expert on staff to validate the developers’ work.
 
Elderly
 
It’s also important to remember that 42 percent of the 77 percent of U.S. adults who use smartphones are over the age of 65. This group did not grow up using mobile apps, so features that may seem intuitive to a young developer could be confusing and frustrating for older users. We can’t design an ideal mobility app with only one or two targets in mind when in reality, the range of users is so vast.
 
STANDARDIZATION
 
Finally, for a mobility app to be truly successful, transportation needs a more standard and consistent process for shopping and paying for tickets. Currently, the process is much too complicated on the user’s end. For instance, you go to one transit agency and buy a card, put money on the card, then use that card to travel. If you go to another transit agency, you’ll pay cash at the fare box or purchase a book of paper tickets. Go to yet another agency and they’ll have you buy a ticket based on zones traveled. An app can simplify the transportation experience, but it can’t overcome the disparities between outdated systems throughout the country.

For real change to occur, we’ll need big transit agencies to move toward a more standard method of ticketing, then hopefully others would follow suit. It will be crucial for agencies to begin walking away from huge and expensive infrastructure like fare boxes and ticket vending machines, and instead embrace more cost-efficient and flexible ticketing and payment technologies. As for vendors, we need to embrace open technology standards, and build our products with an eye towards interoperability. The next generation of mobility applications will require even greater levels of integration with other systems operating in the urban environment. If we can figure out a way to make our products work together, it will create exponentially greater opportunities for all of us.

What I realized during this conversation was that we’re still trying to fit mobile ticketing and payments into the existing understanding of how travel payments work. We’re using the token model that has been around since the Roman Empire. Maybe our tokens have gotten more sophisticated – we’ve progressed from metal coins to paper tickets, then to smart cards, and now to virtual tokens, but we are still working within the same set of processes. Instead of imitating what we already have, the truly ideal app will require us to imagine solutions outside of our current models.
 
 
So what’s the ideal app? Perhaps we haven’t even come close to figuring that out. But the TRB panel was a fantastic exercise to get our gears turning about the virtual automobile.

What do you think is required for the ideal mobility app? Leave a comment below with your ideas.

 


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward