A Connected Commute is a Better Commute

All major cities of the world have commuting issues. Some extreme examples include a traffic jam stretching 200km in the congested city of São Paulo, and a 12 day long traffic jam once experienced by Beijing commuters.

In other cities, the case may not be so extreme, but can’t we all cite examples of where we have been held up, late for work or simply frustrated due to a traffic jam or delayed metro? The answer is, of course, yes.

But what can we do to address this issue in cities around the world? Last year, the New Cities Foundation took on the challenge.

We set up a Connected Commuting Task Force, looking at how social applications could have a positive impact on the commute, helping improve the commuter experience and even ease traffic. We set up the Task Force in San Jose, California. The study took place in two phases.

In Part One, we wanted to understand how commuters share information – and to do so, we focused on two social apps in particular: Waze, a traffic navigation app, which invites commuters to log in, leave and share comments, and Roadify, a similar kind of app but aimed at public transport commuters. We studied the kind of comments exchanged by commuters, and the nature of these comments. Were they positive or negative? What kind of chit-chat was exchanged? In Part Two, we conducted focus interviews with connected commuters and non-connected commuters, comparing their experiences.

Connected Commuting Works

Last month, at our New Cities Summit in São Paulo, urban leaders, innovators and thinkers from around the world came to watch Naureen Kabir of the New Cities Foundation and Patrik Cerwall of Ericsson, give a snappy 10-minute talk on this project.

In their talk, Naureen and Patrik summed up our collaborative approach to this key urban challenge. They explained how we, the New Cities Foundation, brought together a leading technology company (Ericsson) with a civic authority (the San Jose Department of Transportation) along with two of the most innovative commuter smartphone applications (Waze and Roadify), and a leading academic institution, the University of California’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

So, is a connected commute a better commute?

The answer to the core question of our study was a definite yes. The results – published in December 2012 – proved that connected commuting can have a huge impact on urban mobility. The Task Force offers concrete evidence on how social apps can improve the commuter experience. It provides a scalable model that other cities can adapt.

It’s now up to us – citizens, urban planners and app developers around the world – to put these findings to use, and make the commute even better.

Watch the video from our New Cities Summit 

Listen to a special Connected Commuting episode of BBC Click

Read the Connected Commuting Executive Summary

Read the full report