A new federal grant is making it possible for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) and the City of Central Falls to partner on a pilot program that will test the effectiveness of using technology to promote the use of public transportation. It was announced last week that RIPTA is one of 25 recipients nationwide to receive grant funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new “Accelerating Innovative Mobility” (AIM) initiative. The goal of the federal initiative is to support the use of state-of-the-art technologies to improve transit services and transportation options for the public.
RIPTA will receive $244,000 to partner with the City of Central Falls to test the effectiveness of using geofencing technology to help create targeted promotional partnerships that would benefit transit and the public. Under the pilot program, RIPTA will use software to create a geofence – or virtual boundary – around the City of Central Falls. That software will communicate with new smart cards and mobile apps that are now available from RIPTA. The system will be able to tell if someone is in Central Falls when boarding a bus and no fare will be charged as long as the passenger is using RIPTA’s Wave smart card or mobile app.
“Not only are we excited about being awarded federal funding for this innovative project, but we are also excited about having Central Falls as a partner,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Mayor James Diossa understands the importance of public transportation and is forward thinking in his interest in using technology to benefit our industry and the public.”
“This is an amazing opportunity for the residents of Central Falls and we are excited to work with RIPTA on this project,” said Mayor James A. Diossa of Central Falls. “In a community such as Central Falls, the ability for our residents to have access to transportation through RIPTA normally is extremely important, and this new technology provides the incredible resource for free when residents use the new smart card or mobile app during this test.”
The pilot program will last for one year and is expected to launch early 2021 after RIPTA receives the federal funds and develops the necessary software. The City of Central Falls is contributing approximately $50,000 to the project and RIPTA is contributing $11,000. The project funding includes covering lost fare revenue for RIPTA. To participate in the pilot program, Central Falls residents simply have to sign up at no charge for a new RIPTA Wave card or they can download the new Wave mobile app which is available for both Apple and Android devices. They can get more detailed information at https://wave.ripta.com/.
Geofencing uses the GPS (Global Positioning System), cellular networks and other technologies to define a specific area. It is rapidly becoming a powerful marketing tool worldwide, allowing companies to zero in on their target audiences and also to specify where people are when advertisements show up on computers or mobile devices.
For RIPTA, geofencing is of interest because it could open the door to targeted marketing partnerships that will increase use of public transportation. The technology could allow entities such as universities, business associations, or social service agencies to sponsor ridership in specific, limited areas. For instance, a city’s business district might decide to partner with RIPTA to offer free transportation within a certain area in order to make a retail area more accessible to customers. RIPTA officials noted that Central Falls is an ideal test area because it covers a small geographic area but also has high population density.
For more information on RIPTA’s programs and services, visit RIPTA.com.