Helping the Public go Multi-Modal

December 21, 2010

Written by James Wong.

As we talk about multi-modal transportation networks, we tend to focus a lot on transit transfer stations, Park & Ride lots, and bike-friendly transit. There’s always the argument that every transit rider starts their trip as a pedestrian, so those are all multi-modal trips too. It seems that the focus is on how to bring networks together and build a more integrated system. But maybe what we need now is just to bring the information together for customers.

Enter Washington, DC’s newest gadget - a multi-modal display.

Photo Courtesy of Erik Weber

Director Gabe Klein of the District Department of Transportation unveiled and demonstrated the display today. These innovative displays provide information for:

Metro - Real time arrival
Metrobus - Schedule (Next Bus is coming soon, I presume)
DC Circulator - Real time arrival
Capital Bikeshare - Current number of available bikes and slots
Zipcar - Locations

This is powerful information that will help any passerby thinking about how to get to their next destination. So who will use it? Well a visitor looking to explore the region will certainly benefit from knowing how far they can go and when. For the daily commuter, when minutes count, it may be nice to know whether to wait for a bus in the rain or walk three blocks to the Metro. For Capital Bikeshare users, the racks are sometimes a little hard to find if you don’t know the area, so this is a great way to see where they are. Sure you can take off your gloves and go to three websites on your phone to get the info – but isn’t it nice to see it right in front of you?

I have a hunch that some of this became recently available as WMATA opened up its real-time and schedule data in a Google-friendly transit feed (keep an eye on Google Transit – DC is coming soon) that anyone can access.

While I think this is a terrific device – I wonder what other things you could add that would make it even more useful without cluttering the screen or confusing the user:

• 10 and 20 minutes walk circles?
• The walk time to each Metro entrance? (“The next Orange line is in 8 minutes and it takes about 5 minutes to walk there.”)

What do you think? Comment below and Join the Conversation!

This article was written by James Wong, a Transportation Analyst with Kittelson & Associtaes, Inc. in the Reston, VA office. He is a frequent contirbutor to the Streetwise blog.

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