Transit Tech Initiative


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Arlington Transit Tech Initiative

In the Washington D.C. region, many commuters journey each day across city, county, and state boundaries. Thanks to the wide range of options available, a trip to work can combine walking, biking, driving, ridesharing, and transit.

Making connections between modes and different transit systems requires planning and good information. Arlington County Commuter Services – of which Mobility Lab is a part – helps individuals, businesses, and residential communities make these connections and incorporate smart transportation choices into daily life. By providing outreach and information, ACCS helps make it easier for people to transition from a car-centric lifestyle.

Recent advances in technology provide an opportunity to dramatically reimagine “transportation demand management” (TDM) practices and strategies that help localities focus on moving people instead of cars.

The Transit Tech Initiative is so exciting because it could help all transportation agencies provide open data and mobile apps that will transform the ways they work with local businesses and the public. This will make it easier for people to choose transit, biking, and walking.  — Chris Hamilton, Bureau Chief, Arlington County (Va.) Commuter Services

With transit agencies increasingly opening their real-time data and the proliferation of software tools that leverage this data, reliable information can be provided to a public hungry for better transportation options.

Enter Arlington County and Mobility Lab’s Transit Tech Initiative, funded through a Demonstration grant by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

This project will provide travelers with personalized information that reflects their transit needs, pulling in the most cutting-edge trends happening at the intersection of the transportation and technology industries:

Rather than relying on static resources such as timetables and printed maps, or even traditional journey-planning applications that focus on time-specific, point-to-point queries, Mobility Lab will be taking a more holistic view of connectivity and accessibility. The goal is to answer more fundamental questions about:

  • how the important places in a person’s life are connected via various travel options
  • how robust those connections are, and
  • how they fit into a larger travel decision-making context.

Arlington has contracted with Conveyal to lead the development of the Transit Tech Initiative – which aims to look beyond traditional approaches to journey planning and travel visualization. While the project is focused on the Washington D.C. region and Arlington in particular, the challenges are universal in nature. The set of tools and practices being built in Arlington are applicable to commuter-outreach initiatives in communities around the U.S. and the world.

Since the project’s launch, much of the initial work has been focused on the design and development of a new transportation visualization package tentatively called Transitive.js, which visually articulates personalized transportation data, drawing inspiration from stylized transit maps.

Additionally, work has begun on customizing OpenTripPlanner – the leading open-source multimodal journey planner – to generate summaries of transit options. Rather than emphasising the details of a specific journey at a specific time of day, the project aims to build features that help people explore and contextualize transport options as a holistic system. By showing how key places are connected, different transport options may become more easily identified as a logical part of daily routines.

Stay tuned to this space as the Transit Tech initiative unfolds. All of the work will be shared as open source code, freely available for reuse and customization elsewhere.

Mobility Lab looks forward to sharing findings and collaborating with others. Arlington’s Transit Tech initiative is an exciting opportunity to rethink key elements of how transportation providers communicate with their users.

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