Connected Commuting

Waze Application Homepage

Waze – “Outsmarting Traffic Together” – application homepage.

A new report “Connected Commuting” was just released on the use of social networking in transport. The report describes how commuters use two social network apps to share information: Waze (for automobile drivers) and Roadify (for public transport users).

The study used two techniques: sentiment analysis of words used in the social network comments and focus group discussions. The primary sentiment analysis method used was a software program that recognizes the emotional connotation behind specific words and phrases.

Connected Commuting (2012) Report Cover

Connected Commuting (2012) Report Cover

The study’s main conclusion is that social networking can be very useful for improving transport. It recommends that transport agencies use Sentiment Analysis to help provide better information to users. The report also recognizes that “technology is integral to the future of commuting” and states, “There is a real opportunity to please commuters and enhance the commuting experience through future app technology.”

I’d say that these conclusions also apply to transport in general (not just commuting) and the full report is well worth reading. On the other hand, the report seems to go too far with its generalizations about the differences between how auto drivers and public transport passengers use social networking. Clearly these groups use social networking differently, but I think there’s not enough data to support strong conclusions on differences since this field is changing extremely rapidly and the study was based on a limited amount of data. (The Roadify data used in the Sentiment Analysis was for a relatively short amount of time and the focus groups were very small.) This isn’t meant as a criticism of the study, only to say that it’s clearly the beginning of a fascinating field of research. Congratulations to the Task Force for starting the process and developing a structured approach for the analysis.

One idea for further research to consider additional social networks and uses of information. Maybe public transport users don’t use social networks as much as drivers because public transport users are well served by existing real time schedule applications. So it would be interesting to consider how social networking apps can be used to achieve other transport goals such as reporting system problems (e.g. seeclickfix) or long range planning input (e.g., There were also several fascinating studies on the use of Twitter and Facebook presented at the 2012 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (Transit Wire report on Chicago CTA project) and 2011 IIID Transport Conference in Vienna (my summary notes).

Read more discussion of the Connected Commuter report at the Transit Wire and Atlantic Cities.

The Connected Commuter study was conducted by the “New Cities Foundation Task Force in San Jose” a team consisting of the New Cities Foundation, Ericsson, the City of San Jose’s Department of Transportation, and the University of California’s Mobile Millennium team from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

Open Cities Project map. was one of the finalists in the Open Cities app contest. was one of the finalists in the Open Cities app contest.

The Open Cities project is developing and testing open and user-driven technologies designed to improve public sector activities. Seven cities are project partners (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki, Paris, Rome and Bologna) where the ideas are being/ will be tested. One part of the project is organizing challenges for people to develop new applications and technologies.

Open Cities organized a challenge for applications that use open data to help solve the real problems people face in everyday urban life. They received 113 entries (I entered GreenCityStreets, although it probably did not qualify since it does not use API feeds of open data). The winner and runners-up were announced at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona last week (article). The winner sounds like a great app:

  • BlindSquare (Finland) – This app helps improve life for blind people. It uses algorithms to decide what information is the most relevant and then speaks it with high-quality speech synthesis.

Honourable mention went to the following apps:

  • Nice City Pass – This app developed for the City of Nice (France) improves urban mobility by providing realtime info on parking and transport systems (public transport and bike rentals).
  • BikeCityGuide (Austria) – This app offers a complete navigation system for cyclists in cities. I’ve used it in Vienna and it’s quite nice.

The seven other finalists in the app challenge were:

  • Toilet Map Vienna (Austria) – This app helps you find a public toilet. It uses open data from the city of Vienna (including information about accessibility) and displays info via augmented-reality. Interestingly, Vienna actually has lots of public toilets.
  • Hogenood (Netherlands) – This app also helps you locate the nearest restroom and includes comments and ratings.

(AN: Looks like we need a toilet locating system for all cities!)

  • PayPark (Spain) – This app allows users to pay for parking in the restricted parking areas (blue zones, etc).
  • (Germany) – You can use this app to find wheelchair accessible places and to add more to the map. It’s built using open street map.

(AN: There seems to be no end to transport applications.)

  • Huellasolar (Spain) – This app provides ‘solar cartography’ of Spanish cities. It allows users to identify areas with insufficient sunlight or check annual radiation levels.
  • ComunicaPA (Italy) – This app uses open information to let citizens and businesses speak directly to Italian public administrations, improving information and quality of life.
  • Eureka! (Italy) – This app uses open data from public administrations and presents it as a geolocalized index of life quality on a map. It looks like they are also developing a sensor that citizens can use to feed air quality data to the public (see developer description).

I’ll have lots of surfing to do in the next couple weeks to check out all these applications. This was a great idea by Open Cities and I hope they do it again!

Gov Camp Vienna 2012

Photo of schedule for Gov 2.0 Camp Vienna - 2012

Schedule for Gov 2.0 Camp Vienna – 2012

Yesterday I made my first full presentation in German! After about 10 years in the German speaking world I finally took the leap (of course I’ve made short presentations and informal speeches, but never a full presentation before – perhaps an indication of how well the Swiss, Austrians and Germans speak English).

I gave the same presentation on social networking and transport I made at SPUR in San Francisco last week, but this time in German. I presented at the Gov 2.0 camp Vienna 2012 a bar camp conference (where the attendees set the agenda at the start of the day and everyone is encouraged to speak/present). The photo above shows the conference schedule. My presentation is in the bottom row, second from the left.

It was fun for me to give the presentation and my audience was very understanding, even helping me with the words I was unsure of. Perhaps it helped that the organizers broke out the beer and wine just before the last session to help us all get through. The conference itself was really great, lots of positive energy and good connections. Many attendees were from the city of Vienna administration. They were encouraging and shared lots of good ideas for improving Vienna’s already high quality of life. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference.

Social Networks and Transport at SPUR

Friday’s roundtable on Social Networks and Transport at SPUR in San Francisco was quite productive. Attendees included application developers, agency planners, consultants and “normal” people. I’m still processing all the thoughts, but a couple points included:

  • need to provide incentives for people to participate;
  • how to get government to embrace new applications? maybe we need to focus on changing administrational or institutional processes rather than focusing on developing neat applications?

More of these ideas later …

The presentation also gave me a chance to see the great show at SPUR on 10 Diagrams that Changed City Planning, highly recommended.

Social Networking and Transport at SPUR San Jose

We had a nice discussion yesterday about social networking and transport at SPUR in San Jose (you can get my presentation at that site). Among the messages I took home:

  • We should use existing social networking applications to collect information and data, we don’t always need to create our own apps. The example of mining twitter data to better understand transport conditions (done in a Texas city as part of their Regional Transport Plan) was given as good practice;
  • Several attendees were working for government agencies and they summarized some of the problems getting their agencies to adopt innovative new ideas like social networking … it’s not always because these agencies are conservative … but it is a complex problem;
  • Importantly, if agencies don’t get ahead of social networking there is danger that others will develop social networking sites and the agencies will lose an important opportunity to communicate with their customers/ the public;
  • How do you actually get transport agencies to do good things (e.g. bike lanes, bus lanes, etc.) and social networking … really getting things done?

This doesn’t really do justice to the interesting conversation we had, but gives a little of the flavor. I’m looking forward to more discussion tomorrow in San Francisco, here’s a link to the details for the San Francisco SPUR event.

Social Networks and Transportation SPUR Presentation

Meine Radspur Application Vienna Austria

meine-radspur is a GIS app that tracks the routes used by bicyclists. Riders can indicate hazards and places that need improvements later.

I’ve organized workshops at SPUR in both San Jose (Wednesday 14 November, 12:30) and in San Francisco (Friday 16 November, 12:30) to discuss the use of social networking in transport planning and operations. Please come if you are in the area! Details are below.

The roundtables will start with a short introductory presentation on social networking in transport.

One part of the presentation is a proposed structure for understanding social networking in transport, here are the main categories:

  1. Report Problems
  2. Provide Information
  3. Geographic Information / Tracking
  4. Strategic or Planning Input
  5. Sensor Data
  6. Developing an App
  7. Organizing in the Real World
  8. Relationships – Saying Thanks

More details are in the presentation.

San Francisco SPUR Social Networking in Transport Roundtable details

Post Archive