Study Shows Better Data & Apps Improve Public Transit Usage... So Why Do So Many Transit Authorites Block Useful Apps?

from the questions-worth-asking dept

We've noted before the odd fact that various transit authorities around the globe have been trying to stop people from making useful transit apps, with things like schedules and whatnot. The argument from those transit authorities is incredibly short-sighted. It usually has something to do with claims about how the scheduling data is "proprietary" and the authority's "intellectual property." The key point, of course, is that they're hoping to make money licensing the data. But that's really short-sighted. As some new studies are showing, better apps and technology make it much easier and enjoyable for people to use public transit. In other words, by allowing people to use the data to make better apps, they could get a lot more long-term riders. You would think that would be the goal...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 10:58pm

    Don't Really Want Riders

    In other words, by allowing people to use the data to make better apps, they could get a lot more long-term riders. You would think that would be the goal...

    Nope. Most public transport agencies are subsidized with tax dollars and, like most other government agencies, their goal is to provide as little service as possible while drawing as much money as possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:12am

      Re: Don't Really Want Riders

      Given how much your ilk seems to demonize them, can you blame them? How about trying to 'help' rather than just anonymously complain?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Queen of England, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re: Don't Really Want Riders

        Given how much your ilk seems to demonize them...

        Yean, damn taxpayers. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

        How about trying to 'help' rather than just anonymously complain?

        Hey, that's funny, one anonymous commenter calling out another for being anonymous. Hypocrite.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't Really Want Riders

          But he's the great PixelPusher220. Haven't you heard of him? He was on Letterman last night.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Felix Pleșoianu, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 11:26pm

    Um... if they really wanted to improve public transit, they wouldn't need any help. Aren't modern busses equipped with GPS? In Bucharest, they even have cameras inside. (And before modern technology, they had CB radio.) It would be trivial for the central to know when there's an influx of passengers and put more vehicles on the road, or whatever. And what about trains? Those are even more easily monitored.

    No, they clearly don't want to be efficient. They just want to live comfortably and lazily on public money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 11:28pm

    If the government intended to improve public transit it would abolish the Taxi Cab monopolies that it creates.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      Taxi cab monopolies are both a subsidy to the auto industry (more people need to own cars, more people need to drive. I noticed that in Chili, where no such monopolies exist, a lot of people don't drive when compared to here. They take taxi cabs everywhere. Far fewer people own cars and families own far fewer cars) and to the taxi cab monopolists. The consumers are the victims.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re:

        and, if you think about it, taxi cab monopolies cost society more in terms of vehicle expense and fuel. So they result in more vehicles on the road and more fuel consumption.

        The free market naturally chooses the most efficient mode of transportation (to some degree). What are the social costs to vehicled transportation? Fuel and vehicle expenses. More cars and more fuel require more social effort to produce and maintain and so they cost more.

        Consumers (in a free market) naturally choose the mode of transportation that costs less (or, to be more specific, the combination of all consumers naturally choose the combination of transportation methods that collectively costs less) and these chosen modes of transportation cost less because they're cheaper to produce and maintain (fewer cars, less vehicle maintenance costs, and less fuel cost less because less of these things are being produced. Also, no taxi cab monopolies means that you have an entire industry willing to put the effort into figuring out how to save fuel every step of the way to cut costs, since that's part of their specialty. As a consumer, we're generally too busy to individually specialize in such things and for each consumer to individually implement strategies of cutting fuel costs creates unnecessary redundancies).

        Government imposed taxi cab monopolies exist because monopolists benefit from them. They benefit from them in the form of higher prices. More consumers are willing to pay for taxi cab transportation if the prices were lowered and part of the reason for that is that the lowered prices would reduce everyone's overall transportation costs. Hence it would reduce social transportation costs, those costs come in the form of vehicle expense and fuel costs and the cost in social effort of creating and maintaining more cars and producing more fuel (money can be seen as an attempt to represent effort/social effort). More cars and more fuel is what requires more social effort to produce and maintain and taxi cab monopoly abolition would result in people choosing cheaper transportation methods that are cheaper because they cost less in these things (and they cost less in these things because less of these things are necessary).

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          In other words, giving consumers more freedom to choose their transportation methods and giving competitors more freedom to compete will naturally result in a system that produces transportation with the fewest costs, and what are the costs of transportation? Fuel and vehicle expenses (more fuel and vehicles cost more because they require more effort to produce and maintain and monetary cost attempts to represent effort. The free market seeks efficiency in these respects).

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So, if the government really cared about the environment, it would abolish taxi cab monopolies as well. But they do not care about the environment, their environmental concern is just one big fat lie that gives them something to grandstand over for political points.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      Not only that, but taxi cab abolition would increase safety. Workers who specialize in driving will do a better job, and they will drive more safely (since they get more driving experience), than individuals that only generalize in driving as a part of their life. Taxi cab companies have incentive to avoid hiring and to get rid of reckless drivers that speed or drive recklessly (ie: ones that get tickets for doing such). Individuals are more likely to do these things. Taxi cab drivers don't want to get fired (and they don't want a police giving them a ticket, which could also cost them their license or a temporary suspension of it and hence their jobs), they want to stay employable (don't want traffic tickets going on your record, looks bad when trying to get hired), and so they will make more of an effort to drive safely. If an individual who's not in the transportation business gets a ticket, it's not that big of a deal, because he doesn't have to answer to his boss about it since his boss probably doesn't care. If an individual loses his license or gets it temporarily suspended, he can find public or other transportation (pay a friend to give him a ride). If a taxi cab driver does so, that's his job. He wants to drive safely.

      Drunk driving would also be less of a problem. More people who plan to get drunk will take a taxi to the places where they plan to drink and back home (since taxi cabs will be far more ubiquitous and cheaper, as they are in other countries without such monopolies) and so a sober person will be driving. This makes things safer not only for the drunks, but for the sober people on the road who would otherwise be endangered by the drunks. Don't let politicians grandstand about "I want to reduce drunk driving fatalities". It's a lie that gives them an excuse to grandstand for political points. If they really wanted to reduce these things, they would abolish the taxi cab monopolies that they create. The only thing they truly care about is the plutocracy that they create, not about the safety and welfare of their citizens or the environment.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tony, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 5:51am

    reply

    Typical Tea bagger rejoinder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 6:02am

    Common knowledge

    Train schedules are common knowledge facts. How can that be copyrighted? Will journalists be sued if they report train schedules?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:16am

      Re: Common knowledge

      What if an app produces a subtly incorrect version of the train schedule by accident or even on purpose? Who is at fault?

      The average user is likely to get upset at the public transit company, not the individual app creator. Maybe that's not fair but it seems a reasonable scenario.

      If data I publish reflects on me, wouldn't having some control over that data be a reasonable concern?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re: Common knowledge

        The people may blame the transit authority for bad data, but in the end it is the app creators fault and the eventual lawsuit (if there is one) will lead to it.

        Such bad data will also lead people to complain about said app and people will steer other people away from it. Thus teh free market corrects itself as those apps that produce accurate data will get more business.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re: Common knowledge

        Right now, and for the past few years, Google is pulling inaccurate info about Portland/OR's Tri-Met system, even though Tri-Met freely gives that information away. It's been this way for years, and I'm really surprised Google nor Tri-met have done anything about it.

        My thoughts are Google is using some strange source for their traffic info, because it simply isn't correct or can be trusted.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re: Common knowledge

        What if an app produces a subtly incorrect version of the train schedule by accident or even on purpose? Who is at fault?

        The average user is likely to get upset at the public transit company, not the individual app creator. Maybe that's not fair but it seems a reasonable scenario.


        What if a commenter here writes something that's incorrect by accident or even on purpose? Who is at fault?

        The average reader is likely to get upset at Techdirt, not the individual commenter. Maybe that's not fair but it seems a reasonable scenario. Therefore, Techdirt should not allow comments, starting with yours.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 12th, 2011 @ 8:17am

      Re: Common knowledge

      Not copyright. Proprietary information. Kind of like trade secrets, except they aren't secret.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: Common knowledge

        When a company says it concerns their "proprietary interests" or "intellectual property" without specifying what kind, it usually means they have no legal protection over it whatsoever.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    econoline (profile), Apr 12th, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Portland Oregon has taken the opposite approach opening up all their bus gps data etc and it has had some great results including mobile apps.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Squirrel Brains, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Under what theory could they bring a lawsuit. You can't copyright facts. Trade secrets must be secret. There is no other theory that I am aware of to "protect" proprietary information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      Under what theory could they bring a lawsuit.

      Under the theory that even if you're in the right, defending yourself would likely bankrupt you.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2011 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re:

        It won't cost you much when it's over before it starts. When your complaint is "Well, I just don't like what they're doing" how are you going to defeat a motion to dismiss?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This