Smartphone Paradox: Technology Lifeline for Low-Income Transit Riders


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Certification Maintenance


CM | 0.75


Learning Outcomes

  • Discover and interpret the latest statistics about smartphone adoption and usage among people in low-income communities of color who access real-time transit-service information for trip planning.
  • Recognize and leverage effective technology solutions that may benefit and align with agency goals, while including late adopters and people who do not have access to digital resources.
  • Assess long-held, potentially outdated perceptions about categories of transit riders and determine if reframing those categories could enable agencies to better plan and deliver effective, equitable transit service.

More Course Details

Common, but harmful, misconceptions about technological adoption and sophistication among low-income communities of color in urban areas have encouraged governments and transportation agencies to ignore the importance of providing high-quality digital access to services. However, 76 percent of Americans earning less than $30,000 per year own a smartphone, as do 89 percent of urban residents. The quality of data for public-transit trip-planning is rarely understood as an issue of social and racial justice, even though urban bus riders gain the most from access to accurate live information when compared to riders of other modes that serve higher-income users.

Speakers examine data gathered in 60 American cities from users of a public-transit trip-planning app. They show how readily low-income riders in communities of color have adopted mobile trip-planning tools, and how satisfied they are with the quality of the transit-system information they rely on. They demonstrate the power of efficient, context-rich tools for public engagement and feedback. Planners may need fresh information to grasp how much and how quickly access to technology has changed. These new statistics about technology adoption offer insights into current conditions that contradict common misconceptions.