Aug 23, 2009

waiting for the bus - revisited

Helsinki public transport online system

I don't own a car. In Dublin, I cycle wherever I can, sometimes use the local train system, the DART, or a bit more often buses. I love buses, riding them always give me some sort of happy feeling, especially top decks of double-deckers.

However, waiting for buses in bus/train stops is not my favorite pastime, and dealing with public transport in general is often frustrating. Here are some thoughts on how this could change.

The problem in brief: I know where I want to get to. I don't know how to get there.

Standing in any given point in any city, using my pocketable smart device, I would like to input one, and only one thing: the address where I am heading (with possibility to input a departure point, other then my current location, and time, other then current time, to plan future trips).

In exchange I would like to be presented with the following information in a neat, simple way:

1) the distance of the address from my current location

2) the estimated time to walk there, and a map showing the directions

3) the nearest city-bike pickup points (with the number of available bikes and the option to reserve a bike), map to find them and then map to get to the destination from there. also, estimated time to get to destination (walk time to pickup point plus biking time). also, the costs (if any) associated with this option.

4) the direct and combined public transport (bus/train/etc.) lines that cover the distance to my destination optimally. also, the distance and map to the nearest public transport stops, the exact and real(!) time of arrival of the next (and the one following) bus/train/etc. to that stop (calculated via GPS) and my required speed to reach it (walk, run, dash...). also, the costs associated with this option, and the option to pay for the rides with one touch on the smart device.

Of course my pocketable smart device, based on my declared and observed preferences, should order these options as recommendations. For example I prefer walking if it is not more then a mile, but if the bus waiting time is more then 15 minutes, I don't mind walking even up to 2 miles.

Please share in comments your experience, your thoughts.

Some recent stuff I saw, connected to this area:

1) the real time map of all public transport in Helsinki (see screenshot above) offers a search for transport stops, particular transport line numbers, addresses..

2) AR, augmented reality will have a lot to say in this space. The guys are Layar are doing some amazing stuff for example. Also check out this other neat iPhone app from arcossair, nearest subway.

3) the MIT's SENSEable City Lab's Adaptable Bus Stop explores interactive surfaces that travelers can use to plan trips and get information using the bus stop itself instead of their pocketable smart device.

4) another goodie from the same MIT Lab is the EyeStop (see below), which brings the concept even further. The bus stop as the 'smart device' for those without a pocketable one. Plan your trip, get info, check your email, engage with local community services (like message boards). Also, such bus stops should communicate with all sorts of mobile phones, so that you can interact with the system though your own device.

the EyeStop concept by MIT SENSEable Labs


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