By 2015, transit riders will be benefiting from real time information for Link, improved rider alerts and station signage, expanded fare payment options, and an improved multimodal Trip Planner, among other new technology improvements. The Sound Transit Board last month approved Phase 1 of the ST2 Research and Technology program with a budget of $9 million.
Plans for Phase 1 are described in the Strategic Plan for Transit Rider Technology. I was overwhelmed with excitement when I first read though the plan, thinking it was new news but actually, this has been part of Sound Transit 2 all along.
An important feature of the plan is embracement of user-centered design principles at an institutional level. Hopefully, that will result in services and products that are easy to understand and use.
Other than the list of projects, summarized after the jump, the plan includes a “Transit Rider Technology Needs Assessment”, a compilation of what key people at Sound Transit and King County Metro think transit riders (and the agencies) need in terms of technology. I am glad that many of them agree that there is plenty of room for improvement and have suggested ideas similar to those presented on this blog.
Four major groups of projects are planned to be implemented during Phase 1, which runs through 2015. The first group involves establishing a regional repository for real-time and static transit data from all agencies in the region, with processes to ensure the data is of good quality. The repository supports other data-driven projects like the trip planner and real time Link & Sounder arrival information. It will also make that data publicly accessible through a Developer Portal for third-party applications.
The second group involves improved rider tools. The Trip Planner will become multimodal, which allows the combination of bicycle, walking, and transit trips in a single journey, and will integrate real time information on a map, like OneBusAway. An example of this is TriMet’s recently launched Map Trip Planner.
Rider alerts will be improved. The report illustrates the presently complicated and manual process of alert dissemination: “To get an alert posted through all the available channels can take a person in the control center 15 minutes or more typing at four different computers and entering data into five or more systems. This leads to delays in getting critical messages out, inconsistency of messages across channels, and possible inaccuracies.” I have no doubt that this was a factor in the communications breakdown that left hundreds of Link riders in the dark.
The third group of projects aim to improve rider information at stations. The Ticket Vending Machine user interface will be redesigned using a “clean slate” approach to make it more user friendly. New digital signage showing next arrivals and service alerts will be tested, along with a centralized signage control system. Parking management technology and pricing will be studied, which would help Sound Transit determine the value of pricing parking based on demand.
The fourth group of projects will explore new fare payment options and ORCA enhancements. An open payment pilot would allow Link passengers to pay their fare using their contactless credit card like an ORCA card. The ORCA card could potentially be used to pay for parking and bike lockers. A non-smartphone based online ticketing system (like Stockholm’s) would be studied. Finally, exploration of options to change the ORCA website by bringing its management in house, a mobile app to reload cards, and a system for ORCA-related alerts.