May 12, 2020
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty played a major role in the daily lives of most transit riders. One report showed that having limited or inaccurate real-time passenger information increased perceived wait times by 13%, rider stress by 18%, and fear of crime by 32%.
But during a global pandemic, uncertainty can cause a lot more than just frustration and anxiety. Riders who can’t properly plan their trips may spend more time waiting at bus stops or board overcrowded buses once they arrive, putting social distancing guidelines in jeopardy. To put it bluntly, inaccurate passenger information during COVID-19 is a public health risk.
Providing accurate real-time passenger information through industry-leading arrival predictions has been at the core of what we do since we launched Swiftly over five years ago. Now, we’re augmenting that with a new Swiftly module to help provide accurate information about service interruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re calling it Rider Alerts.
Swiftly Rider Alerts allows transit agencies to easily communicate service interruptions — such as service cancellations, detours, stop closures, and significant delays — to riders wherever they get their transit information.
Rider Alerts extends Swiftly’s Transitime product by augmenting real-time vehicle arrival predictions with rider-facing notifications. It provides a simple way for agencies to send information to trip planning apps, so riders can more easily adjust their travel plans, as well as send modified routing information to navigation apps, so riders don’t have to think about it in the first place. With Transit, passengers can subscribe to alerts on their favorite lines, so they receive a push notification as soon as you publish new information.
The Rider Alerts module publishes a GTFS-rt feed, an open data standard, so any app can incorporate these messages. Our open ecosystem also makes it easy for agencies to integrate Rider Alerts through to their own apps, signage, websites, social media, and more. This means that passengers see the same alerts wherever they get their information.
As lockdowns are eased or lifted in the coming weeks, it will be essential for agencies to keep riders up to date on rapidly changing policies and associated impacts on service. That’s why we’re offering Rider Alerts to participating agencies at no cost.
Our aim is to help agencies keep passengers informed during the COVID-19 pandemic and allow passengers to make the safest travel plans possible. With Rider Alerts, passengers will have access to up-to-date information about which stops may be closed, why, and for how long, as well as the best course of action given the circumstances — hopefully eliminating the need to wait at crowded stops or pack into buses when there’s gapping. We want to do our part to keep our communities safe, especially for essential workers who rely on transit to get to where they need to go.
If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve assembled some questions to help determine if your agency is a good fit.
Do I need to be a current Swiftly customer to sign up for the COVID-19 offer?
No, the offer is open globally to any agency that publishes schedule information using GTFS.
Is there a waitlist?
As with all of our products, we want to make sure all customers have a high-quality, personalized onboarding experience with Rider Alerts. Accordingly there may be a waitlist to get the Rider Alerts offer. We’ll let you know when you reach out.
How many people at my agency would get access to Rider Alerts?
Like all of our products, Swiftly Rider Alerts has unlimited seats, so you can provide access to as many users at your agency as you’d like.
Do I need to have GTFS-rt for real-time passenger predictions to use Rider Alerts?
No, for Swiftly Rider Alerts, you only need to have a static GTFS file that provides information about your routes and schedules. However, other Swiftly products, such as Transitime for predictions, also require real-time vehicle locations (AVL).
Do you support publishing formats besides GTFS-rt?
Not right now. But based on demand, we may expand our support to formats such as SIRI.
Can I use Swiftly Rider Alerts in other languages?
The Rider Alerts interface is in English, but the content of your alerts can be in any language.
How much will it cost to get Rider Alerts through the end of September?
Nothing. Throughout the offer phase, the Swiftly Rider Alerts product will be offered to participating agencies free of charge.
Will there be any costs associated with Swiftly Rider Alerts in the future?
We will provide Rider Alerts for free to all participants through at least September to alleviate the most disruptive period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Should your organization desire to extend access to Swiftly’s Rider Alerts, we will have proactive and transparent conversations about pricing before the end of the beta period.
Why are you providing it for free? Is there a catch?
We created Rider Alerts to give back to the transit community and make it easier to keep riders safe. We hope this tool, like all of our products, will make it easier to run efficient service and keep riders informed. Demos or pilots of Swiftly’s other products will not be a requirement for participation.
See how Swiftly can improve service reliability at your agency with an in-depth demo.