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Making public transport fun

Comments in recent posts got me thinking about an ingredient that really needs to be added to our PT system – fun. The idea is simple – if an activity is fun, more people are going to join in. What’s more, the great thing is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot either. Here are some examples that I’ve come across:

The stair piano – This idea sees stairs transformed into a piano that is activated by people walking on them. It has been tried in a few different places and the end result is more people choosing the stairs over the escalator.

Or this example from Brasil

The speed camera lottery – A simple idea used to slow traffic down. The money collected from speeding fines is distributed in a lottery to those drivers that obey the law. Perhaps in Auckland we could do this with some of the fines collected from the illegal use of bus lanes.

The ‘transfer accelerator’ – A slide to get down to the train station rather than using the stairs. How much fun would it be to build a giant slide down to the 40m deep Newton station?! Would beat taking the lift I say.

PT achievements/trophies/awards/badges – Those who use gaming consoles or services such as Foursquare will be familiar with this concept. The idea is simple – give people a virtual award for achieving a particular task, e.g. performing a certain action so many times. It might sound silly but many people will take extreme measures to obtain virtual awards. Using the Hop card data, AT could come up with a set of awards for using PT. I can already think of a whole host of ideas these awards could be given out for.  If AT wanted to go a step further they could give out some actual awards too, for example a $5 credit for the first time you use PT for a whole week.

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What are some ideas you have to make PT more fun?

18 comments to Making public transport fun

  • Oriel

    I have a sort of solution to this very problem. I came up with it as a student, it’s called Citymiles. It’s a reward scheme for PT users. There’s a short video that explains it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihjZBJ9q71A

    • Greenwelly

      But isn’t this just like a “fly buys” scheme or petrol vouchers at the supermarket, it just rewards people for purchases they are going to.make anyone, or in this case a PT trip they are already committed to making?
      Unless the rewards threshold is set really high level, I.e one ride to britomart = a free trip to the zoo or something, and hence very expensive to run, you are unlikely to actually attract many new punters, just reward those lready using the system.

      Sure it might give regular users a free visit once in a while, but given the diversity of auckland and the very specialised patronage of many of the likely rewards (usually council owned activities, otherwise AT would actually have to fork out real money for the rewards) woudn’t t just. Be simpler to reduce fares and let the PT users spend the difference to maximise ther own utility.

      Reward schemes might cause a change in purchasing activity for objects with very little difference, ie shopping at new world or countdown, BP or Mobil, And might drag a few over to PT, but I am not sure in the cold light f day that if you tallied up he total rewards given out over the tota number of new users it would be very cost effective.

  • baw

    Convert each train to a work of art. Put one in tiger stripes, another in pock a dots, another where passengers have been X-rayed,

    Then when you return from a hard day at work you can wounder which train will be coming. Makes your day a bit more interesting.

    Add to that it makes a nice photo stop for the tourists.

    In Frankfurt I once observed a Subway station which consisted of a train bursting out of the ground.

  • Rharris

    Great post. Have always thought more should be done to promote the benefits of public transport over cars. Overseas it was always a great way to run into lovely ladies. Public transport speed dating?

    • Boom! Sex sells, why can’t it sell PT?

      Great post Matt, like the comments too

    • SPT

      Of course many women might view a campaign that promotes men leering and propositioning them as a good reason to avoid public transport, especially if they receive unwanted attention and then have get off at a poorly lit stop. Nothing wrong with mutual attraction that occurs naturally but as a female, I would be pretty uncomfortable with something that promotes PT as a “dating service”. Call me over sensitive….
      I do think the slide is awesome though!

    • MrV

      Eww, the reality is closer to homeless people smelling of urine and whole bunch of people with mental illness hanging around the station.
      Lets get real rather than some utopian fantasy.

      • Rharris

        While just throwing out the idea of speed dating and am neither here nor there with the idea, I’m sure the reality is alot of people that participate in speed dating are women who arent afraid to proposition men and the men aren’t urine soaked bums. Nor do speed dating places or train stations attract urine soaked bums.

      • Wow, where have you been using PT? Post-apocalyptic Moscow? That is such a massive stereotype of anti-PT people that it really is laughable.

        I never found any of those issues around PT stations in places like Prague or Copenhagen. Maybe because the stations were busy all the time. It may happen more in auto dependent places where the PT is of such poor quality that it attracts these people.

        I guess where a lot of people congregate there are some but I actually think car parks encourage those people more than PT stations. Maybe if government spent more money on mental health services and less on motorways to nowhere, those people would be getting the help they deserve.

  • OrangeKiwi

    Mmm… waterfall stairs (under acrylic glass so your feet won’t get wet), comfy couches under the bus stop shelter (bless those inventive Lithuanians), restaurant in a train unit, artists performing/authors reciting in train units (dedicate an annual week or weekend to it), 3D street art on platforms and corridors et cetera because there’s tons of things one can come up with. And like Geoff said, sex sells: how about an R18 service on friday nights ;)

  • I’ve always thought that the council could make the particularly busy but dreary bus stops in the city (eg Albert Street outside Auckland District court) a bit more pleasant by getting (talented) buskers or bands (violinists, spanish guitar, pleasant but unoffensive) to play music at bus stops, or have pop up donut/coffee/etc stalls, balloon animal makers, whatever, just to make the place a bit more pleasant and the waiting less of a chore….

    • Rob Mayo

      Houston Metro have had acapella groups, classical and jazz quartets perform at specific bus & tram stops and its been very successful…..has raised patronage at those stops I’m told.

  • Greg N

    Take a leaf from the fast food chains as they know how to leverage customer visits, into loyalty and then into return “visits” (i.e. future sales).

    As you suggest Matt electronic rewards are an easy way to go, one such idea would be to make your AT Hop Card work like the Subway card does
    e.g. randomly give out occasional “bonuses” (of free HOP money credits) each time its used.

    While also accumulating “Hop Points” based on travel spend which you can redeem for travel related rewards (or gift them to a charity, for them to use if you wish).

    Imagine if for example, the City Mission had a “hop points” charity scheme, you could donate your Hop Points to them regularly, they could then use them to encourage their charity workers to use PT to get around (free travel) and/or to use them to hand out Hop cards as non-monetary assistance to the folks they work with so that they can travel around the city as they need to.

  • Steve West

    A family train carriage on weekends, e.g. clown or magician etc. Although given the new walk through EMUs some might find this annoying!

    Create convertible train carriages that could be rented out on off peak services as mobile offices. Maybe for the job everyone seems to do – real estate/rental agent!

    Food vending machines onboard trains (non smelly/ non staining of course).

    Public transport “treasure hunt”, e.g. twitter/online promotion for hidden prizes under bus/train seats or on cycle routes. Could be sponsored so no cost to AT.

  • Publius

    Not exactly fun, but…
    o Vending machines on train platforms that only accept AT Hop. Encourages HOP card uptake and provides revenue for AT.
    o Promotions involving some sort of AT Hop card usage in connection with rewards from a company who pays AT for the privilege. E.g, reward everyone who tagged on/off at a particular station a free subway sandwich redeemable via the AT ticketing machine which prints a voucher from your Hop card. A different random station each day for a month. You could be a winner — just use public transport!
    o Perhaps a promotion like Telecom did a year back, by topping up your card you have a chance of winning from a selection of prices. If people had a reasonable chance of winning even $0.50 when they topped up they’d feel happy.

    • Rob Mayo

      This is what is needed at Auckland’s gated interchange stations (Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNbUCKT_aho&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      This machine accepts payment by SUICA (JP equivalent of HOP), cash or mobile phone ‘wallet’ (Sony FeliCa system), has facial recognition built-in – offering drink recommendations based on the person’s age and gender. Its linked into the surrounding station’s digital signage network via 802.11n and so can have its screen display updated instantaneously with product specific TV ads, seasonal drink offerings and even news, weather and train schedule info. The data collected on purchases coupled with the data collected at station gates (via SUICA and single journey mag-stripe tickets, is in high demand by FMCG manufacturers and their advertising agencies.

      The three largest beverage companies in Japan, now have a significant presence in New Zealand – Asahi owns Independent Liquor, Kirin own Lion Nathan and Suntory own Frucor. A significant percentage of revenue for these companies in Japan, now comes from the production of non-alcholic beverages – particularly bottled energy drinks, bottled tea and canned coffee. All three companies are already actively targetting increases in sales overseas of non-alcholohic product lines over the next 5 years through their various offshore acquisitions.

      Rail operator JR East developed this digital vending machine, contracting the interface design to global design company EightInc (the company that worked with Apple on the development of their global store network). Since its launch in 2010, the JR East Digital Vending Machine has been hugely successful and is fast becoming an important adjunct to the company’s NZ$77.4 million per annum income from its WiFi based in-train and station concourse digital signage network.

  • asciimation

    Removing the advertising and vinyl transfers off the windows (!) of buses so us poor slobs inside them can actually see out. Public transport shouldn’t be like travelling inside a shipping container.

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