BusMeister: Community Involvement for Public Transport
BusMeister Project 2011-2014
BusMeister helps improve participation in the public transport planning process. We think residents understand their neighbourhoods and may think of creative ideas not recognised by transport planners. Furthermore, involving residents helps increase political support for improvements, especially important for sensitive improvements such as bus lanes.
On the other hand, public transport is complex. We think people can develop better improvement ideas if they know more about how public transport works. BusMeister uses a game to teach people about public transport in a fun and engaging way, and thereby helps transport agencies obtain better public input and support. (BusMeister Description 2011.)
BusMeister consists of an online game, an educational website and wiki, and a crowdsourcing website to collect improvement ideas. BusMeister helps:
- Residents understand the benefits of public transport improvements;
- Encourage discussion by creating an informal and fun atmosphere at public meetings;
- Increase engagement in public transport planning;
- Drive traffic to public transport agency websites; and,
- Increase community support for public transport.
BusMeister was online between 2011-2014. It was awarded most innovative project in Vienna’s “Die Stadt 2020” (The City 2020) competition and won an honourable mention award from the US TRB’s Public Involvement Committee (2013).
In BusMeister players add improvements such as bus lanes or traffic signal priority to an imagined city street and try to achieve target goals for customer satisfaction and operating costs. The game teaches players about the trade-offs involved in public transport planning.
One of the interesting lessons we learned in developing the game was the importance in using a game designer. It’s possible for transport modelling companies to develop games, but since the focus needs to be on creating a fun game, it’s best to use actual game designers.
BusMeister is a Flash game designed for use on a website or Facebook page. The game includes standard game elements including login, high scores, Facebook interface, level locking, and a return to play later function. Unfortunately we took BusMeister off line in July 2015 because of the Flash security vulnerabilities. You can see the game play in our GreenCityStreets Application video (YouTube).
Education: Website and Wiki
A key BusMeister goal was educating non-professionals about public transport. The Improve Public Transport Website outlined six strategies for improving transit operations that could be applied in the game. The Improve Public Transport wiki provided more detailed information about the improvement strategies.
The educational media helped increase community support for public transport improvements by explaining their benefits and providing examples. A key project objective was reducing the need for every public transport agency to create their own educational materials. This would would improve the quality and efficiency of community input in transport planning.
Collaboration: BusMeister Forum
The BusMeister Forum was a public collaboration platform for residents to suggest and discuss ideas to improve public transport in their community. The project concept was for people to learn about public transport from the BusMeister game, website and wiki, and then to suggest ways of applying these ideas in their community.
The Forum was built on Facebook which had the advantage of increasing the user base and providing features including “Liking” and sharing. There are many more options for creating collaboration applications today. The Forum application worked well technically, but it was not well used since it was not connected with a specific project, agency or advocacy organisation.
- Good: Used a game designer to develop a fun game;
- Good: Placed game on Facebook where it was played by many people;
- Good: Developed a public transport suggestion forum on Facebook;
- Good: Succeeded at developing a prototype integrated public involvement application;
- Good: Won a prize from the US Transportation Research Board for using technology to communicate complex transport ideas to the public.
- Unfortunate: We were unable to find a client (public transport agency or advocacy group) to really use the crowdsourcing idea.
GreenCityStreets.com: Using ITS to improve transport planning – Paper presented at ITS World Congress 2012.
Introduction to GreenCityStreets.com – Presentation made at PICNIC Festival 2012 Amsterdam.
GreenCityStreets.com – An Internet Application for Increasing Public Involvement in Public Transportation – paper submitted to US TRB Annual Meeting 2012.
The BusMeister project was assisted by funds from ZIT: The Technology Agency of the City of Vienna (now: Wirtschaftsagentur Wien). The BusMeister game was programmed by Platogo internet game design. Snizek + Partner Verkehrsplannungs GmbH assisted in developing the website and providing input to the game.