GMU Study Recommends Policies and Partnerships to Promote Real Time Information

A recent study by students at George Mason University (GMU) found that strategic improvements in policies and cross-agency collaboration are the keys to improving real-time transportation information options for commuters and travelers. The study, Just in Time: Enhanced Mobility and Equity through Real-Time Information focused on case studies from seven places: San Francisco, Seattle, Jersey City, Atlanta, Oakland, Scottsdale, and Montana. It shows that the availability of real-time information (RTI) can increase transit usage by reducing wait time, improving the experience of captive riders, and attracting so-called ‘choice’ riders to alternate modes.

However, advancing the display of RTI in public spaces faces a number of challenges, including: adequate funding, regulatory ambiguity, and a lack of open data for RTI. In addition, complex procurement processes pose a challenge for small vendors, and cooperation and coordination between public and private entities can be complicated.

The students’ research results also found that transit agencies and alternative transportation providers often partner to create centralized RTI and information sharing; thus, municipalities and agencies should develop transit, technology, and financial policies that are adaptable to emerging mobility options in connected urban environments.

Because RTI can increase transit ridership and customer satisfaction, municipalities and transit agencies should consider developing open data policies to provide sufficient data for use in third-party application and software development to increase the availability of RTI. The study recommends that RTI providers educate municipalities by presenting a clear business case that demonstrates the benefits of open source data provision for use with highly customizable RTI displays and potential ridership impacts for the jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the study team discovered that inconsistencies in the policies governing the use of public infrastructure or that RTI can unintentionally limit the ability to generate revenue through outdoor advertising. As a result, the project team recommends that municipalities and transit agencies carefully review policies to ensure greater consistency of policies governing public space and identify opportunities and challenges for integrating RTI technologies.

It is also important to understand that the public procurement process often unintentionally acts as a barrier for RTI companies attempting to enter the market. The research team proposed that RTI providers learn to effectively navigate public procurement processes, particularly those that benefit small businesses or are focused on best value.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eno Center for Transportation.

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