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Smart Mass Transit can lead the Smart City Revolution

The discussion over Smart Cities has been going on for years. Some Smart solutions, such as street lights and sensors, have been applied in many cities, but these small and usually isolated interventions are not enough to make a city truly Smart. Smart Solutions need to be connected and to achieve critical mass. However, comprehensive and large-scale innovations are about to emerge, and Smart Transit is the component that can lead the way to a true Smart City revolution.

While smart solutions have been applied on many different fields in the last few years, mass transit systems have remained mostly static, with only small innovations taking place -such as a line of LED text informing you on the arrival of the next train or bus.

Yet, despite being slightly neglected, transit is the way to accelerate innovation at a city scale. And transit is the place where a person can be exposed to humanity itself – people of every racial, religious and socioeconomic background and of every ability getting uncomfortably close to one another in a few square feet of transit- and where the solitary experience of the internet is brought into this living cultural mashup.

Transit systems are also ideal for leading the Smart City revolution due to practical reasons. Since they tend to be autonomous organizations, controlling everything that happens inside them, and generally operated and managed by a sole authority, acting more like a corporation than a government bureaucracy, they do not suffer so much from the usual entry barriers that cities have to face: competing interests, distributed decision-making and regulations among a million committees, departments, community groups, and private businesses.

Transit systems have what innovation requires to be successful ‘” a built-in user base with massive scale.

This potential is starting to be noticed by transit authorities. Users are no longer viewed simply as riders, but as customers. In free market economies, at least, transit authorities know they need to deliver an experience in line with expectations, including safe and reliable service.

The recent advancement of the consumer world have to be brought in to the field of mass transit. The best digital ideas -and digital minds- have to be brought to the table along with the institutional expertise of transit authorities. While cities rarely have the luxury to rebuild centuries-old systems from the ground up, they do have the ability to radically change them, by using a Smart City approach. This can be the enabler of a transit experience that is more reliable, safer and efficient. And, in modern cities, with their intense diversity, this solution will hopefully spark not just the digitization of physical space, but the enablement of a more human internet, and a more connected humanity.

The original article can be found on TechCrunch.