Friday, May 11, 2012

Did Steve Jobs Save Mass Transit Without Even Trying?

The above is my attempt to write an attention-grabbing headline that bears only tangential relevance to the point of this post.

Five years ago, there were no angry birds you
could launch at pigs to take out your frustration
at bus service delays.
But it does have some relevance in this case. I think Atrios is missing the key way in which smartphones have improved the experience of waiting for and riding the bus. They've made it more fun! When I worked at Microsoft ten years ago, you would occasionally see some twenty-something male bus rider with a Game Boy Advance. But no self-respecting person who's not a twenty-something male geek would walk around with something like that. The will, however, walk around with an iPhone or Galaxy Nexus, which they can use to read news, play games, do crossword puzzles, or get some actual work done.

I sometimes think that mobile games are a blight upon society, distracting us from real person-to-person interactions, but in this use case, they may be giving more people reasons to take the bus. Perhaps Neil has a utilitarian point he could make here.

3 comments:

Neil Sinhababu said...

My utilitarian point is that this is good.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

I wish i could +1blogger comments...

Alon said...

I think the effect of smartphones on transit is really overrated - even including apps that improve the transit experience, like bus schedules and such. The reason is that we're not seeing ridership trends like that at all. In most developed countries, mass transit ridership is increasing and driving is decreasing, but it's a gradual trend that's been this way for 10 or 20 years.

And there are things that cause very sharp increases in ridership over a few years. For example, the opening of a new line, or a significant upgrade of existing service. Just not smartphones.