Infrastructure

Latitude Transit Study Results: Part Two

San Francisco’s MUNI. Flickr user Librarygroover

This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 3 will be published at latd.com and americancity.org over the next few days.

  • Part 1: "Deprivation Study Finds Access to Real-Time Mobile Information Could Raise the Status of Public Transit"
  • Download the full Tech for Transit report summary (PDF) here.

Last week, we released the results for our "Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System" study, a collaboration between Latitude Research and Next American City. The study asked regular drivers in Boston and San Francisco to go car-free for one whole week, sharing their experiences and recommendations along the way. It aimed to uncover opportunities—focusing on real-time, mobile information solutions—for transit providers and other businesses to connect with individuals when it matters most: that is, when they're making decisions about how to get around.


"Bike riding" by San Francisco study participant, Jennifer R.

The study also suggested a fundamental shift in people's values that could help raise the status of public transit. New technologies and smart information access are making it easier than ever to try new things and to achieve multiple goals at once—goals like saving money, being healthier, and minimizing our impact on the environment. This kind of multi-tasking efficiency and freedom—and the distinction they carry—is now becoming an option with car-free transit, and might just begin to outweigh the benefits of driving all the time.

It's Not What You Buy—It's Which Services You Use

Moving from an era of hyper-consumption towards one more concerned with access and practicality, people are beginning to take pride in the services they choose, perhaps moreso than in the products they own—essentially, in access over ownership. "Indeed, for some people, proclaiming you are a 'Zipster' is as important and carries as much cachet as having the latest iPhone," writes Rachel Botsman, co-author of What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. People now have a desire to lead lifestyles that are "smart," "financially savvy," and "environmentally aware."

Today, individuals have not only a wide range of choices about how to locomote but options for personalizing the experience in some cases. (On average, participants used 5 different modes of transit during the car-free week.) When we go to purchase a vehicle, we relish the wide range of brands and models that we have to choose from—and many of us take pride in the option we ultimately settle on. Car-sharing services like Zipcar and RelayRides offer their users this freedom of choice too, but they offer it over and over, depending on how we might be feeling on any given day.


Multi-Tasking to Achieve a More Ideal Me

Participants cited perks of going car-free that related to their personal goals, ranging from having time to read, more opportunities for socializing, reducing their carbon footprints, shopping locally more often, and so on. "It doesn't have to be all or nothing," says Janna C., a study participant from Boston. "You can plan a few days a week to go car free and you get the benefits—time to exercise or read—and reduce your environmental impact." Mobile apps makes it easier for people to achieve these goals and to keep track of their positive impact. For example, the Green Rider app (for iPhone and Android) calculates users' carbon footprints, provides up-to-the moment transit schedule information, and even sounds an alarm to make sure you don't miss your bus.


Green Rider app for iPhone

Web and mobile information tools can confer a wide range of benefits, typically reserved for car ownership, on alternative transit options like public transit, walking, biking, and car-sharing. They acheive this by offering a similar sense of choice, convenience and personalization, and by providing new opportunities for people to reach their personal goals—whether those relate to being more social, being better to the environment, discovering local hang-outs and events, and so on.

Part 3 of the series, to be published over the next few days, will discuss specific opportunities in tech and transit, including participants' suggestions for new mobile apps and features. Download the full study report here.

Study lead: Marina Miloslavsky




Latitude is an international research consultancy exploring how new information and communications technologies can enhance human experiences. Amidst a landscape of profound technological change, they consistently deliver next-generation insights and assist organizations in discovering and developing new opportunities. To learn more about working with Latitude, contact Brian Conry (bconry@latd.com). For press inquiries, contact Kim Gaskins (kgaskins@latd.com).

Tags: infrastructurebuilt environmentsan franciscobostontransitbartmunizipcarmbtalatitude