Technology can be great, but I am starting to wonder who is going to cater to those who aren't "connected?" Between articles I find online about a new and improved way to live in a city and my own attempt to engage the public of Jackson, MI in the master planning process, it seems the solution always comes back to "use technology."
As for online articles, I recently stumbled across an Atlantic Cities article: How to Make Waiting for the Bus Feel Much, Much Shorter. It suggests that it's not so important to increase the frequency of public transit service, as much as it is important to provide real-time information about when the bus/train/etc. will arrive. I'll buy that, because I, as well as most humans, like predictability in most situations; especially when I am relying on public transportation to get me somewhere in a timely fashion.
So applications like OneBusAway are created. Awesome. I have a smart phone, I have a data plan, and if I lived in one of the 4 metros this company serves, I would definitely use it. But what if I didn't have the money for a smart phone and the outrageous data plan that comes tied to it? Or what if I prefer the old, reliable flip phone I have been rockin for the last 5 years? Is it the transportation authority's problem to cater to those who cannot connect to the fancy new system? If it's not their problem, then whose is it?
Perhaps it's the responsibility of the next generation of information designers and innovators. I am in a School of Information class called Citizen Interaction Design at the University of Michigan where we are all dividing and conquering different problems that the City of Jackson, Michigan has identified for us. As it turns out, one of those problems is catering to those who rely on the bus as a primary mode of transportation. City officials told us that they estimate 95% of public bus ridership cannot afford private transportation methods. They also may not own a smart phone. The course is in the early stages where students are meeting regularly with our respective counterparts at the city to gather information and better define the problems at hand before solutions are proposed. Though I am part of a different group (post to soon follow), I am excited to see what this group manages to come up with, and what their reliance on smart phone accessibility will be. I will be sure to post their approach to solving this problem, as well as my thoughts as a planner (the outlier demographically in this class).