Our vision of a better – and more fair – San Francisco transportation system

Flickr torbakhopperSolving San Francisco’s transportation problems can be an expensive and complicated business. But thanks to the hard work of planners and engineers at our local and regional transportation agencies, plus the support of political leaders and the tax-paying public, we’re starting to see some serious progress: brand new Muni buses already on the road and a new BART fleet arriving soon; Van Ness BRT close to breaking ground; and Transbay Terminal construction looking more impressive every day.

Here at RideScout, we’re all about improving the transportation experience for the everyday rider. We don’t dig tunnels or lay concrete, but we do know how to build powerful software and great apps. So, as our transit system is refreshed physically, we want to do our part to ensure that people know about and can make best use of this amazing new investment. We also want to help make sure that these systems run smoothly. Transit operations don't attract the headlines of a ribbon-cutting, but once the dignitaries have left and the trains are running, a safe and trouble-free system is what actually keeps travelers happy. 

Thanks to a grant from Just Transit SF, and in partnership with TransForm, we're developing and deploying an incentive system that will help people find better transportation options in and around San Francisco. This system will be baked into travel apps that SF residents and visitors use every day, making it easier for all of us to get to where we want to go, as quickly and comfortably as possible.

How might this work? Well, consider what happens when there’s a breakdown on a Muni line. Even if this information gets sent over social media, it’s usually unclear what alternatives are available. Even when the alternatives are clear, we’re creatures of habit. We’ll stick to the N-Judah through thick and thin. But what if, along with that notice of a breakdown, we got another, more helpful message?  A message that said: “Hey, there’s a problem on this route. How about trying the 7 bus to get you down to Market St? Here’s a free ride on that very bus, redeemable through your favorite smartphone app, to make it a no-brainer.”

This is our vision of a more fluid, adaptive, flexible and all-around better transportation system. In this system, people are encouraged to take alternative services and routes when there is pressure at certain points and times in the system. This looks great to a transportation planner, no doubt, but we think it’ll also make for a more pleasant and less stressful experience for Muni riders.

We also believe that this new system can help the San Francisco transportation system become more accessible and equitable. With that in mind, TransForm and RideScout will be focusing on helping riders from disadvantaged communities make better use of Muni by delivering discounted and free tickets on key routes and at key times.

We’re grateful for the vision and hard work of those in San Francisco and beyond who are bringing new investments to our transportation network. TransForm and RideScout are excited to do our part to improve the efficiency, experience, and equity of San Francisco transportation. Look for the roll out of this program soon, and let us know what you think.

Beaudry Kock is VP, Enterprise Product at RideScout.

About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.