Navigant Research Blog

Multi-modal Apps of the Future Pay Customers to Reduce Congestion

Ryan Citron — April 15, 2016

CarsharingPreviously independent modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, train, bus, taxi, ridesharing services, and personal vehicle usage are becoming increasingly integrated. Multi-modal programs that allow city residents to plan trips using a variety of transport options is one of the major trends in the evolution of the smart city mobility market. Application services such as CarFreeAtoZ and TripGo allow users to plan a trip with up to five mobility options and combinations (train, bus, car, bicycling, and bike-share). Other services such as the GoLA app (powered by Xerox) integrate planning options to include carsharing (Zipcar) and ridesharing (Lyft) services.

Multi-modal apps allow customers to choose the most efficient routes possible to save on commute times. Most apps also include information on the carbon emissions of the trip combinations and options, allowing users to make more informed decisions about how their trip may affect the environment.

New Apps with Big Potential

A prototype transportation app called NextCity looks to not only help users plan their commutes, but also help them get discounts on transportation options that help to reduce vehicle congestion. Users will be offered incentives to change their transportation route based on traffic conditions. For example, the app might offer a discount on the ferry or train if there is construction or an accident on a typical driving route.

NextCity is unlike some of the startups in this space that lack the infrastructure connections and financial backings to make a significant impact. The app is a project of San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS), a subsidiary of Cubic Corporation. CTS is a leading integrator of transportation payment and information solutions and already powers major payment systems such as London’s Oyster card, Chicago’s Ventra card, and San Francisco’s Clipper card. The baseline of public transportation data available to CTS, combined with the current operation of public transit payment systems, enables the company to not only help with route planning, but also integrate and adapt payment systems. The company’s goal is to develop the NextCity app as quickly as possible to create a single-account system covering payment for all modes of transportation (including bikes and bike-share, ridesharing, tolling, parking, etc.).

While many route planning apps are helpful to users and are increasing in adoption, adding a financial incentive to users is expected to significantly increase participation among city commuters. It’s one thing to be informed of alternative transportation options—it’s something else entirely to be paid to use them.

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