Citizen-based Public Transport Planning
Improving public transport using social networking and information technology.
Bus Meister uses an on-line game, social networking and a best practices library to teach people how to improve public transport. By involving people in the improvement process we hope to stimulate creative thinking and generate the political support needed to implement good ideas.
The Bus Meister game demonstrates how public transport priority measures can improve bus and tram service. The game’s foundation is a crowd sourced library documenting best practices in public transport operations. Finally, Bus Meister’s social networking features provide a forum for discussion and help generate new ideas and political support for public transport improvements.
Bus Meister focuses on public transport priority. Public transport priority measures are improvements designed to make public transport more attractive by speeding-up buses and trams. In contrast to large infrastructure projects like new metros or subways, they are generally inexpensive and can be implemented quickly.
Bus Meister’s approach, providing an integrated set of internet applications designed to encourage active participation by urban residents in planning and supporting public transport, could also be extended to other urban infrastructure. The Bus Meister model, a combination of using a game to teach residents about a complex subject, providing detailed information in a best practices wiki, and using social networking to encourage implementation of the best ideas would be an excellent method for engaging residents in the process of improving cities.
In October 2010, the City of Vienna awarded Bus Meister a prize for innovation in its Die Stadt 2020 Research Program and is providing funding assistance for the initial development through ZIT: The Technology Agency of the City of Vienna. The project team: Andrew Nash, Platogo and Snizek + Partner Verkehrsplannungs GmbH released the initial version of the application in April 2011.
The project concept is summarized below.
For more information on ideas for using the internet to improve transportation planning please see: Web 2.0 Applications for Transportation Planning by Andrew Nash.
Bus Meister Game
Bus Meister is an internet game that teaches players about public transportation and strategies to improve operations.
The Bus Meister game presents players with a surface public transport route. The player’s goal is to make the bus or tram run faster by dragging public transport priority measure ‘widgets’ onto the displayed route. For example, one widget would change a traffic signal so that it provides priority for public transport vehicles. Here’s a screen shot:
Bus Meister game image.
The game simulates route operations and displays parameters showing how much the player had improved: passenger satisfaction, the public transport system cost and general satisfaction of city residents (since providing priority to public transport can negatively impact other traffic).
The game has several levels. Each level is more challenging than the previous and is designed to teach players about more advanced improvement strategies. Higher levels include additional widgets to improve public transport. Once a player reaches a specified score on one level they can move-up to the next level.
Our goal is to create a fun and engaging, but educational, game. The initial game represents a generic city. The initial game is available on its own website and on Facebook.
If the initial game is successful, it will be extended and improved to help explain more advanced public transport concepts and ideas for improving specific routes. The ultimate goal is a game in which players can develop and test ideas for improving real public transport routes (e.g. the routes they use every day).
We will also create versions for public transport agency websites or Facebook pages. Public transport agencies could use the game both to drive internet traffic to their website, thus helping them communicate with their customers, and to teach their customers about public transport priority using local examples, thus helping generate support for implementing public transport improvements.
Ultimately the goal is to help people develop a proactive relationship with their public transport agency. In other words, playing the game, in combination with the social networking applications described below, would help create a set of committed customers: people willing to help make their public transport system work better. The goal is to go beyond having people simply “Like” your agency, but to create a groups willing to help provide political support and good ideas for improving their local public transport systems. Please contact us if you are interested!
Bus Meister Social Networking Application
One of Bus Meister’s key goals is to encourage players to form social networks to discuss the ideas they learn playing the game. In particular we hope that the players will form local groups that help provide political support for implementing public transport improvements. The social networks will also be used to publicize the game to friends and encourage players to keep playing the game.
Bus Meister will be fully integrated with Facebook which will be used to announce high scores and “who’s playing” to friends. The Facebook page will be linked to the Bus Meister website which will include a set of social networking features enabling players to discuss issues in detail and geo-code improvement ideas. We will also create special pages for specific public transport agencies enabling them to collect ideas and information from their customers who play the game, and efficiently respond to these ideas.
Ultimately we hope to encourage public transport passengers to create new ideas for making public transport work more efficiently and to discuss these ideas on the Bus Meister social network. By encouraging non-professionals to think about public transport, we hope to generate fresh innovative improvement ideas.
Bus Meister Best Practices Library
The Bus Meister Best Practices Library is a combination of website and wiki describing public transport operations and priority measures. The library provides both introductory information for non-professionals (website) and more detailed information for professional planners (wiki). You are reading the website now.
The wiki consists of three main sections: a description of the Bus Meister game, the public transport priority best practices wiki and resources. The public transport priority section contains introductory pages presenting basic information and details pages describing technical information and research results. The wiki uses a hierarchical structure helping users to more easily see relationships between topics.
Our goal is that the wiki becomes an active forum for discussion on public transport priority. This is important because we hope that professionals will contribute information to the wiki based on their research and case studies; their incentive for participation would be publicity. Ultimately this wiki would provide an elegant (and constantly updated) literature review – thus further encouraging professionals to add information. Professionals will be encouraged to participate through the use of professional social networking applications (e.g. LinkedIn).
Bus Meister will be developed in stages. The first stage will test the concept by creating a generic game, social networking features and best practices library.
If the initial application is successful, we will seek to improve the game and adapt it for use on specific planning problems. For example the game could be used to help collect public input on a route planning study. Throughout the process we will make the game more realistic, add features and improve usability.
Please contact us (email@example.com) if you are interested in learning more.
The Bus Meister project has been assisted with funds provided by the City of Vienna through ZIT The Technology Agency of the City of Vienna.