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Transportation

The Most Important Transportation Innovation of the Decade Is the Smartphone

So why don't cities and transit agencies take more advantage of it?
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In the most recent New York City mayoral election, supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis bragged that he was the only candidate with a vision of the future worthy of the city. While Catsimatidis's grand scheme of outmoded monorails and anachronistic world fairs failed to resonate with voters, he was right about New York's lack of imagination when it comes to transportation. For the most part, the people who run the city's myriad transportation organizations still haven't figured out how to deal with the most important, most obvious innovation in transportation: the smartphone.

Almost all movement in a major city now begins with a phone. Mobile apps and interfaces help people do everything from sort through route options to locate an approaching bus or hail a taxi or for-hire vehicle. While cities and transportation regulators have released data and encouraged innovation through contests and hackathons, no U.S. city has aggressively pursued development of an integrated app that enables users to plan, book, and pay for trips across multiple travel modes. Instead, it's the likes of Uber and Google Maps and CityMapper and RideScout that have demonstrated what is possible, and controlled the movement market to date.