Would adding mobile Wi-Fi to the city transit system increase ridership?
Today at the MassDOT Developer Conference we got to talking about the goal of changing the image of buses and other mass transit to be the solution of choice for a wider spectrum of people. Lost time is sometimes the reason that people will drive instead of taking public transportation. It often takes longer to get to your goal using mass transit, and while en-route, you often can’t get much done, other than people watching or reading.
Then this little idea appeared…
What if the transit system buses (and other vehicles) had mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, using one of the cell provider networks for connectivity? Then rather than loosing time, you’d be able to have Internet connectivity, and get work done at times when normally you would be tethered to a steering wheel if you were driving yourself.
We had a quick discussion about whether this would attract more professionals to use mass transit, and potentially help with the goal of increasing ridership. The costs seem so be fairly low, and headed even lower if technology like the Atheros Mobile AP chipsets become real. These seem to be targeted to enabling a mobile phone or other small mobile device to be a full Wi-Fi hotspot – allowing a bus to have its own hotspot at very nominal price and complexity.
Some initial reactions were to wait until a new generation of busses were put into service, but it seemed to me that if the costs were reasonable, this could accelerate ridership and thus help to fund both current system operations and future upgrades. In addition, if the cost per bus were fairly low, an A/B test could readily be put together to see if there is an increase in ridership on Wifi equipped busses.
Do you think that having mobile Wi-Fi in buses would increase ridership by a noticeable amount in a month? How much? Why or why not?