In 2012, the company TransitScreen launched a new service that makes choosing a method of public transportation much easier. The company’s digital signage aggregates real-time information for any mode of public transit in a city—subways, commuter trains, buses, bike share, ride shares—and displays this info in university buildings, the lobbies of apartment buildings and offices, and more. TransitScreen debuted as part of a government pilot program in Arlington, Virginia, and today they are up and running in seven cities. Now, the company has announced that it is outside of private lobbies and onto the city street. Literally.
TransitScreen’s latest endeavor, SmartWalk, involves bringing the same real-time dashboard of information into the physical world by projecting the information onto public spaces. In addition to the real-time transit data provided by the screens, the projections would also embed way-finding information for transit options on sidewalks, walls, plazas, or even billboards: think arrows pointing you in the direction of the bus, subway, or bike share.
Ryan Croft, one of TransitScreen’s co-founders, says building owners and business improvement districts have approached the company interested in the new ways SmartWalk can activate the public space. "It’s a dynamic use of real-time information that cities haven’t seen before," Croft tells Co.Design. "They really like it because it’s something that has such broad reach." The company is currently in talks to install a nightly projection at the Great Wall of Oakland, a 10,000-square-foot wall on the outside of a Bay Area building where digital art and film are frequently screened.
Though some transit apps, like RideScout, provide similar data on the fly, their reach is limited to those who have a smartphone, and who know to download the app. With both the original TransitScreen displays and SmartWalk, the information is displayed for anyone who walks by. In Berkeley, a TransitScreen display situated between the city’s University of California campus and the downtown BART station will see an estimated 3 million people walk by a year, according to Croft. The advantage of an outdoor projection is that the audience isn’t limited to residents or employees occupying a particular building that opted to install a display.
And the transportation options listed through TransitScreen's dashboard outstrips pretty much any mobile app, since it's customized for each location where it's installed. It tells you exactly how many bikes are available at the nearby bike station, how many minutes it will take for a ridesharing service to pick you up, and, at some universities, when the nearest campus shuttle will arrive. The company is attempting to bring Uber and Lyft data into the fold as well.
Making it simple to decide exactly which method of transportation is closest and quickest can provide that extra push for ridership on the city bus or that additional membership in the bike share. "We like to say we’re trying to make alternative modes of transit cool and easy," Croft says.