"Why are you on screens?"

Posted by Rachel Karitis on 2/9/17 5:52 PM

Here's a statistic that may surprise you: Only 25 percent of smartphone owners use their phones at least occasionally to get public transit information, according to a 2015 Pew report, and 10 percent do this frequently. That means at least 65 percent of people don't even use apps for this occasionally — if at all!

There are a lot of great reasons why we're screen-based. It's not because we think anything is wrong with apps. There are plenty of great apps out there — in fact, we consider ourselves to be perfectly complementary to them. If you're in a strange location where you don't have convenient access to the information in front of you, then, yes, you're going to use an app. The thing is, we're doing something different.

Now, why are we a screen? That's a great question — thanks for asking!

Here are three good reasons:

1. Screens are the best interface.

Like we said, there are a lot of great apps out there: a lot. In fact, there are so many apps out there that can help you with transit-related problems. You can download one for the metro, one for the bus, one for your bikeshare, one for your rideshare, plus Google Maps so you can see how long it will take you to walk to the stations... a whole folder's worth of apps on your phone. TransitScreen, on the other hand, presents all of these options to you at the same time so you can compare them instantly and easily.

Screens also allow for condensing an overload of information into what's going to be useful. There's no need to sort through all the noise, because the bus you take every day is always in the same place on the same screen. If you're in a different part of your city than you normally frequent, you may not know which metro station is closest. Unlike your phone, a screen has already curated this information for you, customized for your exact location.

2. Screens always work.

Here's the thing about apps — they require that your phone: a. has battery and b. has service. However, in a lot of places you might need to know about alternative transit options (in an underground metro station when the train is delayed 20 minutes, let's say), your phone isn't going to be able to connect to any of those great apps you have downloaded. And by the time you get back up above ground, you may have used so much of your battery trying to access those apps anyway that you may not have any of it left.

It's also possible — crazy though it may sound — that you're using your phone as a phone when you want to catch a ride. If you're already using your phone to talk to someone, you can still glance at a screen to quickly get the information you need.

3. Screens are accessible to everyone.

In 2015, 64 percent of Americans owned a smartphone of some kind, according to the same Pew Research study on smartphone use. The other 36 percent don't have access to apps with information about public transportation — despite the fact that this group is likely made up of lower-income people who need this information the most. When our screens are in public places, they are exactly that: a public good.

So there you have it

Part of our mission is to help change behavior by giving people the nudge they need to think outside their usual transportation choice — and that's not going to happen on an app you have to go out of your way to download and use. We provide people with the information they need at the moment in time they're making their decision. And that is why we aren't an app.