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Easing Transit Agony

app technology Swyft Urban Engine

In this week’s earlier post on transit and commute pain, I didn’t mention Uber or Lyft. Many people are writing and fighting about them. Instead, I want to pick up a different thread, the transit app. How are tools, conceived in the Bay Area, helping us through the dreaded commute or the long, slow schlep to a fun event across town and across the Bay itself?

Fast and Cheap, Swyft

Swyft is a free app for BART and Muni users that instantly measures travel times and costs across major transit options, selecting the fastest and cheapest way to reach your destination (interface graphic above, Swyft). The app takes into account urban transit as multi-modal, where people move across the map through a combination of “public transportation, rideshare, carshare, bikeshare, skootershare, walking” and envisions a future where all kinds of modes fold into its model. The idea is that the user community will generate data to pinpoint what’s working, what’s not and how to do better. Their twitter @SwyftApp also updates the latest changes in transit for SF commutes and highlights news in the transit and urban planning field with a local view.

From the Bay and Beyond, Urban Engines

Last week, Urban Engines announced that its app now also features mixed-mode transit options. Additionally, you can save a stack of your “favorite” maps for quick reference and use. Urban Engines also targets cities and businesses that want to leverage its routing data capabilities. Unlike Swyft, at this point, the app works in more than 50 cities, including Canada and Singapore. However, it doesn’t emphasize commute costs and offer the cheapest mode. And, though I avoided mentioning Uber, I must point out that both apps integrate Uber as one of an array of transit modes to get you where you’re going. It’s not clear whether Uber competitors pop up as options.

More and more people are commuting longer and longer distances.  The best app, the big enchilada app, would connect cities to each other, connect the entire Bay Area.  It would also include fantastic carpool data and options that are both safe and transparent. (I’m digging what I’m reading about Carma). While none of these apps will undo the factors that have us in this painful commute quandary, they can give us back some measure of control. The best hope is that they and their users can contribute to what planners and organizers know about how we move about and how transit is serving the public.

transit technology city planning

Urban Engine, analytics for cities

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