This Smart City App Collects Data L.A. Will Use to Improve Transportation

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California Faik Nagiyev / Shutterstock.com

The city of Los Angeles, a place long known for its traffic congestion challenges and more recently for an aggressive transit expansion effort, launched its Go LA trip planning app Wednesday—the first to provide mobile access to all available public and private transportation services.

The iOS and Android app analyzes the time, cost, carbon footprint and health benefits of walking, biking, driving, parking and riding public transit. But it also accounts for emerging transportation options Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and Flitways, before compiling the shortest, cheapest and most sustainable modes of travel in the metro area.

A number of trip planning apps already exist, but what sets L.A.’s apart is its hyperlocal approach to mixing and matching within the city’s transportation universe and to gathering data.

“We hope the marketplace will have an element of open data, where people and in particular governments can benefit from how people are moving around in their town,” David Cummins, Xerox Mobility Solutions’ senior vice president, told Route Fifty in an interview. “What we’re trying to show is with this view all the providers can optimize their own operations with the data available.”

Over time, the app learns a user’s preferences to make more informed commute suggestions.

Preference data is anonymously shared with L.A., which tracks regional travel for urban planning and cost saving purposes. Analysts will see that an unnamed individual traveled from Point A to Point B via a particular mode of transportation, but not that they used Uber or Lyft.

An emphasis is placed on public transportation and how cities might place future bike stations or rethink taxi territories, but the private sector can use the data as well, such as Zipcar locating cars near hubs of activity.

Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area by population, is piloting the smart city solution aimed at simplifying urban mobility in partnership with Xerox. The Norwalk, Connecticut-based business services company designed the app to determine “sooner,” “cheaper” and “greener” routes based on a user’s desired destination and arrival time.

(Xerox)

“Our city has many centers. People are commuting in all directions at all times by many modes,” Seleta Reynolds, L.A. Department of Transportation’s general manager, said in the city’s announcement. “Xerox’s work could help us learn where to improve infrastructure for people who walk, roll, bike, take transit and drive—it’s invaluable insight to help make Los Angeles more livable and enjoyable.”

Other details the app provides are trip length and calories burned, with customers able to save favorite or often used trips to “My Rides”.

App research started two years ago, centered on the emerging mobility market transformed by private companies like Uber and the push toward mobile payment.

Already partnered with L.A. regarding mass transit and parking services, Xerox wanted to create a network effect where cities, travelers and transportation service providers (TSPs) all benefit from being on one platform.

“Our intention was not to build a global app to compete with Google Maps,” Cummins said. “And so the thought was we would provide a solution cities could deliver to their citizens, customize it to TSPs, get them all on the app, give it a local feel, and continue to add local knowledge over time.”

Forming arrangements with private TSPs like Uber, to get their information in the app, proved a lengthy process that took “getting everyone comfortable and making sure they were treated equally,” he said.

Creation of apps for L.A. and Denver—which slated its launch for February and coincidentally named it Go Denver—spanned the past 18 months. The Mile High City’s app will have its own logo, look and feel.

A Silicon Valley co-creation process was employed, putting the idea for the app in front of hundreds of customers, getting their feedback, reworking and repeating until a viable solution emerged.

Long term, Xerox plans to add booking and payment functions allowing users to coordinate an entire trip with a single button click. Ridesharing and destination parking details will also be worked in for users traveling in the same direction.

Xerox wants users with enough data to ultimately create profiles and set fitness, budget, financial and time goals.

“How to get from home to the workplace?” Cummins said. “That can be an insurmountable distance for some people, without using public transit or some other solution that might be cheaper.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: Cities Embrace Big-Ticket Transit Projects

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