Gen-Y and Millennials — those aged 18 to 34 — have turned into one of the strongest demographics to endorse public transit. According to “Transportation and the New Generation,” a study by the Frontier Group released in 2012 that uses data from the Federal Highway Administration, the share of 14- to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license was 26 percent in 2010, up from 21 percent in 2000. In 2009, the 16- to 34-year-old cohort took 24 percent more bike trips than in 2001, even as their population shrank by two percent. The same age group walked to more destinations in 2009 than in 2001, and the distance they traveled by public transit increased 40 percent.
This is the same generation that has revolutionized how media is accessed, distributed and consumed, and that’s going to have an impact on how mass transit looks and sounds. They want media available all the time, everywhere, on their own devices. This extends from their own music and video to messages delivered by advertisers and government, from news about a favorite band or a new restaurant, to notifications about transportation schedule changes and delays. And if all of this additional information is going to be mixed in with the media they’re already consuming, it’s going to have to look and sound good to get noticed.
A new level of information
That creates a considerable opportunity for advertisers and those who operate mass-transit systems. Digital signage systems don’t have to display transit information every second; advertising and other information can be inserted in between informational updates to schedules. Digital signage can also use “tickers” running underneath or to the sides of user information. Mass transit operators can take a cue from how airports and airlines use this kind of platform, rotating information about the upcoming flight on LCD displays at departure gates with promotional information about the airline itself. Airports have become incubators of a number of AV and digital signage trends that mass-transit operators can emulate, such as connecting the AV systems of retailers in the airport with the paging and life-safety notification systems maintained by the airport authority.
System-wide Wi-Fi capability is important for implementation of personal devices aboard mass-transit and to extend messaging. This has been recognized by cities like New York, where the governor announced an extension of a Wi-Fi system to all subway stations. London introduced Wi-Fi service to 120 Tube stations, and Tokyo, Hong Kong and New Delhi have limited Wi-Fi services in place.
Agencies generate revenues on their audio and video systems and improve their economic situation by using better media systems to support a sense of value of mass transit by the public.
These AV technologies and available and are more affordable than ever. Using them to make mass transit environments more inviting encourages greater use of mass transit facilities and more reliable funding, which can be used to make it even more enjoyable. MT
Paul Chavez is the director of systems applications for the professional division of Harman, a manufacturer of products for professional, consumer and automotive sound, lighting and infotainment.