Your Smartphone Can Make Taking the Subway Less Traumatic

Lindsay Mannering
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boston tThere are so many things a smartphone is handy for -- finding restaurants, reading the news, sexting -- but did you know that using your iPhone or BlackBerry can help you save the planet? April is Earth Month, so if you ever needed an excuse to splurge on a new phone, now's the month to do it and feel guilt-free ... being green is always a justified cost for any purchase, right?

Just how green your smartphone will make the planet is up to you though, so get ready to be an active participant -- it's not going to do all the environmentalist work itself. But a study done in Boston and San Fransisco shows that smartphones may just be the key to solving the emissions problem.

Participants in the study were told they can't drive for a week and instead had to take public transportation. The results showed that people weren't as aggravated by handing over their keys when they had real-time phone apps that would alert them to train, subway, and bus schedules. Having the knowledge and the power to determine a public transit trip took the stress and frustration out of the previously ambiguous process.

I lived in Boston for five years and waiting for the T was a constant source of fodder for public complaining, angry rants, and fist-fights ... much like the beloved Red Sox. But dang, it was annoying and hard to navigate. Programmers and mass-transit providers are certainly excited to learn that at very little cost to them, they can improve a rider's experience by simply (simply?) letting us know via apps what time the next B line is due to arrive at the Comm Ave stop. If you're able to see on your app that it's coming in 15 minutes, no need to stand out in the freezing cold when you could duck into a pub for a quick pint. Maybe smartphones will also increase bar tabs.

Bringing together third-party app makers and public transit authorities seems like a match made in heaven. Give us the data and everyone will be happier, not the least of which might be Mother Earth. With more people willing and able to take mass transit because of these latest apps, fewer cars will be on the road. Even two or three days a week will make a difference -- someone doesn't need to give up their SUV entirely to be able to take mass transit.

So get out your smartphone and get on board!

Would you take mass transit more if you had better information via apps?


Photo via Cirofono/Flickr

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