The Cool Ride

At an APTA conference a few years ago, the key presenter at the opening breakfast told us about Mercedes Benz’s exhaustive study of the car buying process. More than 100 steps lead to the customer’s final purchase decision. Woven through the process is determining which car best represents who you are and what works best for you. As the selections narrow, the buyer will predict how their friends will respond when the new car is revealed. The best response is “That is really cool.” According to the presenter, when the day comes that a buyer gets that reaction by choosing a bus, we’ve won the war.

Can using public transit be cool? We all know it is, but does the public perceive it this way? Increasingly, many do, especially the younger crowd that will be with us the longest. And of course, going green is cool. But so is being on top of what’s new and innovative. Innovation is one ticket to capturing market share, and, based on the number of new apps, innovation certainly is happening in transit.

Does it seem like the number of these apps is exploding? It is. In the past year 10 to 30,000 new apps of all kinds entered the market every month, with a huge spike of 115,000 apps added in December. If you read our “Going Mobile” story in the December/January issue, you know that ticketing is rapidly evolving around mobile devices. We’re also presenting stories online — nearly daily — about apps to keep riders informed of real-time arrivals and transit options. A click on one of these little icons opens up a world of convenience and transit by its mobile nature has been a perfect venue for many of these apps. Increasingly, the conversation on the platform at the train station and bus stop includes the question “What app are you using?”

It’s pretty cool.