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Dr. Mitchell L. Moss
Sarah Kaufman
Publication Year
Publication Type

Emerging technologies offer transit agencies an opportunity to transform fundamental aspects of their operations and the way they communicate with their riders. With nearly ubiquitous smartphones and social media tools among growing ridership patterns, transit providers can use aggregate mobile phone data and social media posts to improve system management.

Data‐based reports can reach the operations center faster than field personnel, with mobile phone networks indicating station crowding or a passenger posting a photo of another pulling the emergency brake. Exceeding traditional reporting mechanisms (exclusive information from personnel) would save time and lower the costs of field monitoring while raising the trust between transit agencies and their customers.

Public feedback mechanisms are growing both within and tangentially to government services, allowing users to collaborate on planning projects, report on quality‐of‐life issues, and crowd‐fund local initiatives. While transit agencies historically rely on periodic rider surveys, this method of data collection is outdated and often inaccurate when compared to real‐time social media posts.

By employing “co‐monitoring” ‐ the monitoring of field conditions through a combination of staff reports, data analysis and public observations – transit agencies will save time and costs for information gathering, improve their responsiveness, and establish working partnerships between the agencies and their customers. This report proposes a framework for a co‐monitoring system, and discusses the expected benefits and challenges, as well as policy recommendations for agencies pursuing co‐monitoring systems. Keys to successful comonitoring systems are agency openness to new streams of data and respectful dialogue from both management and riders. Well‐designed comonitoring tools will put transit on track to manage smarter, more versatile transit systems for the twenty‐first century.