For Bus Riders, Real-Time Arrival Data Is More Important Than Better Service

Posted by Ryan Croft on 1/23/14 9:53 AM

Emily Badger, a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities, wrote a great article on January 22 titled 'For Bus Riders, Real-Time Arrival Data Is More Important Than Better Service.' She wrote about the psychology of waiting for an unknown amount of time, and the effect it has on a bus riders and potential bus and transit users. The studies have shown that "many transit users felt like they had been waiting about 50 percent longer than they actually had." From one of these studies at the University of Washington in 2008, a group of grad students created OneBusAway, a real-time bus tracking app. Not only did the group of bus riders (and bus stop waiters) that used OneBusAway not have the same issue with wrongly perceived waiting time that non-users experienced, but they also found that "92 percent of them reported that they were more satisfied with public transit as a result of using the app."

WMATA Metrobus at bus stop

We at TransitScreen are proud to be working with the team behind OneBusAway.

We also wanted to share the full article by Emily Badger, so please continue to read all the great research about why technology is forever changing the psychology of waiting for a bus, and transit in general.

For Bus Riders, Real-Time Arrival Data Is More Important Than Better Service

The wait for the bus is the worst wait. It's worse than the wait to get to the front of the checkout line at Trader Joe's – there at least the endgame is within sight. It's worse than the wait at the doctor's office, where someone has thoughtfully provided magazines and betta fish and soothing music. It's worse than the wait for a table at any restaurant, where at least you have some hope of parlaying a free appetizer in exchange for all your patience.

The bus, on the other hand, is invisible until it's right in front of you. It could be a minute away. It could be 20 minutes away. You're craning your neck around the corner, praying for the first glimpse of that electronic sentinel – The No. 6! YES! – when for all you know, the blasted thing passed two minutes ago. And maybe you're late. Or it's sleeting. There's no one on hand to give reassuring updates or take escalating complaints. And the opportunities for distraction are minimal.

"There are all these insecure feelings you have when you're not sure what the full situation is," says Kari Watkins, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech who has studied how people wait for the bus. "With your automobile, it’s parked right there, you know where it is at all times, if you need to run out and go somewhere, you can do that. But when you make the choice to be a transit rider, you say, 'I'm going to give this power over to the agency.'"

In other words, you give up a lot of control.

To read the full article, click here