The Shelter, the Fare, & the Bus: Three Options to Streamline Public Transit
When it comes to transportation, particularly public transportation, it can often seem like we’re stuck in the past – paying for a bus fare with cash or playing a guessing game with when the bus will arrive. But there are solutions to those problems available today. Here, the component parts of one such solution are broken down; individually, each would make using public transit easier, but in concert they could truly make a 21st century transportation system.
The Future is Now
Imagine walking up to your bus stop just a few minutes before it arrives –- you know when it’ll be there because you received an alert about its arrival time on your phone minutes earlier. During the short wait you connect with the station’s Wi-Fi and download your favorite podcast to listen to during the ride. When the bus arrives you wave your hand over a contactless pad that collects the fare and then sit down to enjoy the quite ride of a zero emissions electric bus, knowing that you are doing your part to help combat climate change.
It sounds quite pleasant, almost effortless, but while it may sound futuristic, it’s all possible today. Below, the component parts are broken down; individually, each would make using public transit easier, but in concert they could truly make a 21st century transportation system.
- The Shelter: The 21st century version of the old bus shelter is the “smart bus station ” that provides free Wi-Fi, real-time bus information, and USB ports to charge mobile devices. Such a shelter could also integrate with a transit app connected to your phone tosend updates about your bus route. This bus shelter is a big improvement on many bus stops today which are often just a pole with a sign next to the road, but it will take commitment from our elected officials to make it happen.
- The Fare: No need to fumble with change and crinkled bills -– paying could be as simple as waving you hand (or phone) over a scanner. Moving beyond reloadable transit cards that many riders already use, the next payment evolution is the mobile payment app, and beyond that wearables. Some US cities already support mobile apps (like the Boston Commuter Rail & Portland TriMet) and others are working on it too (Chicago & NYC). But instead of fumbling with cash or a card, why not wear a small wristband or ring that can pay your fare with the wave of a hand? Even better, these aren’t just for the bus — they can also be used at stores that accept contactless payment.
- The Bus: Step onto a quiet, zero emission, all electric bus. The only sound you’ll hear as you check your email or read your book is the cars driving around you and the soft hum of an electric battery powering the ride. Proterra has built a bus that can drive over 250 miles on a single charge, much farther than the typical bus route, and is capable of quick recharging at bus stops if needed. Because no gas is required, this bus can actually be cheaper than a traditional bus over its lifetime. Electric vehicles are different than standard gas ones, with unique challenges and opportunities, so the designers started from scratch just like the Tesla – this is the peoples’ Tesla.
The future is now. Or it could be. When it comes to transportation, particularly public transportation, it can often seem like we’re stuck in the past – paying for a bus fare with cash or guessing game when the bus will arrive. But the solutions above are more than just ideas, they’re being tested and implemented so that we can realize the future today.
Yet, none of these things will happen on their own. We need you to take action. Help us convince policy makers to invest in a 21st century transportation system, and help move us into the future.
To call for 21st century transportation solutions in your community, sign our petition.
How We Get There
Public transit is, well, a public good. For some it’s necessary to get to work or school, for others it a choice that frees up time and money otherwise spent on a car. Regardless of motives, more people using public transit is better for the environment1 and public health.2 And increasingly people, especially millennials, want to live in areas that are walkable, bikeable, and accessible by public transit. Advanced stations with Wi-Fi and apps that provide real-time date, and high tech payment options aren’t just for buses – they can work just as well for subways and light rail, commuter rail, and even bike shares.
To make this future a reality though, it will take initiative from transit agencies and local governments that can be slow to embrace change. That’s why it’s so important for your voice to be heard. By signing our petition calling for more 21st century solutions, you can help us advocate for more and better public transportation and help make all this a reality.
If you support 21st-century transportation solutions in your community like electric buses, streamlined options, and real-time tracking apps, add your name here and share this with your friends and family too.
1 American Public Transportation Association, “Public Transportation Saves Energy and Helps Our Environment.”
2 Federal Transit Administration, “Alternative Transportation and Your Health.”