Enhancing the Commuter Experience

What would make your commute relaxing?


San Diego has one of the shortest commutes in the U.S. (at an average of 23 minutes), but an accident or highway repair can add stressful-frustrating hours. There must be some way to reduce the effects of this stress (e.g. higher blood pressure, higher weight, and lower fitness levels). Parking can also be a problem, making the entire commute an ordeal. Often, drivers don’t even know where to park because of the small print and confusing rules on parking signage.

Many avoid driving themselves altogether and instead commute by public transit. However, the public transit system could use several improvements. Feedback and communication with riders is an interesting problem facing the public transit system. Without feedback and communication it can be difficult to improve the commuter experience.

Dynamic Parking: How might we route cars to the just-open spaces?

concrete parking garage
In a large city like San Diego, parking is a widespread problem. As the population increases each year, more cars join the road and better systems are needed to manage and plan for new parking infrastructure. How might we help drivers and planners navigate the challenge of parking in San Diego?

The city of San Diego is broken down into six community parking districts: Downtown, La Jolla, Midtown, Old Town, Pacific Beach, and Uptown, and further into residential and business parking. The challenge at hand is to figure out the most efficient parking plan possible for the areas where parking is deemed “bad”. Drivers need information about where to find a spot and how much time they have left on the meter. The city currently operates with a basic website that only offers static parking information, while a real-time solution might be considered more ideal. “How do we get information to the public?” is a question continually asked by city officials. “It’s not a shortage of parking. It’s a matter of having the parking where people want to go, and having the parking work correctly.” says Gary Smith from San Diego’s Downtown Parking Management Group.

Transit: How could we communicate with commuters?

MTS train
Users of public transit in San Diego have recently reported increased dissatisfaction with transit costs, public transit availability, and cleanliness at public transit areas. The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and North County Transit District (NCTD) need better ways of hearing and responding to public transit riders. San Diego’s public transit infrastructure is extensive. MTS is currently working on the Mid-Coast Trolley Project, which will increase accessibility to public transit in San Diego. Improvements designed with public transportation users in mind can motivate them to continue using public transportation, which ultimately benefits San Diego residents and businesses financially, and it helps San Diego to be more environmentally-friendly. What are the best ways to connect with this population of riders, and actively get their input about specific spots that need improvement? Even the design of that “feedback” may need improvement.

Traffic: Could an hour in commute be more enjoyable?

bumper to bumper traffic
Residents of San Diego deal with congested freeways every day---northbound in the morning, and even slower southbound in the evening. Why is it this way? Could we make changes to infrastructure, traffic behavior, or policies that will reduce our dependence on cars? Our dependence on cars is not only bad for traffic and congestion, but also our health and the environment. By definition, traffic congestion is a function of too many cars trying to occupy the same restricted space at the same time. The stop and start to traffic can be maddening. The frustration of being stuck in traffic can easily morph into stress, which has recently come to be referred to as the "car effect". The challenge remains on whether to invest in improving driving experience, such as better roads and education in merging techniques etc., or whether to invest in promoting other means of transportation. It is clear though, that something must be done to mitigate some of these effects.

Mobility hubs: How can we seamlessly bring together multiple transportation options?

mobility hub
A mobility hub is an ecosystem of various transportation options and technologies located in smart growth opportunity areas that serve high-frequency transit. This system is an innovation from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which is an organization that plans, allocates resources, and provides information on a variety of topics regionally. Mobility hubs are places of connectivity, and an important goal of one is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and single-occupancy vehicles. The services within a mobility hub also help commuters make short trips around their regional area, and reduce traffic while decreasing transportation costs.

Mobility hubs are more than just transit centers. Rather, it is a unified network of mobility services, drawing upon technological and urban design enhancements where connections between transportation options (biking, walking, bussing) come together seamlessly. One proposed feature of a mobility hub is an app that a user could log onto with a universal transportation account where they could pay for a variety of mobility services. In addition, autonomous and automated transportation services that will be implemented in the future and be integral to future mobility hubs. What kind of transportation amenities would you like to see in a local mobility hub?