This App Aims to Incentivize Public Transit Ridership and Boost Local Businesses

Hoboken, New Jersey.

Hoboken, New Jersey.


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Shop and Ride is connecting riders with merchant offers along their routes, and soon they met be able to redeem points for travel rewards.

A Shop and Ride app, connecting users with merchants along their public transit routes, is being piloted in Hoboken, New Jersey, and testing the theory riders want to consume more services on their mobile devices.

Riders receive personalized, hyperlocal offers as they travel and with a single touch can either redeem the coupon or save it for later.

Science camp host Mad Science of Union and Hudson is currently offering summer camp early-bird pricing on the app but can easily change discounts up on the fly for class registrations and party discounts.

“The people in Hoboken think they actually live in the suburbs,” said Julie Serritella, Mad Science’s chief mad scientist, in an interview. “But they are very tech savvy and interested in taking advantage of whatever opportunities are there.”

Like Brooklyn many years ago, Hoboken has become a popular place to live for 25- to 45-year-olds working across the Hudson River in Manhattan. Many of these working professionals are married to a mobile lifestyle and regularly use mass transit. In addition to New Jersey Transit buses, commuter rail and light rail for regional and inter-city connections, Hoboken residents have Hop shuttle bus routes for neighborhood transit service and relatively quick access to Lower Manhattan and parts of Midtown Manhattan via the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s PATH rail system.

The 200,000 commuters passing through Hoboken are perfect guinea pigs for Norwalk, Connecticut-based business service provider Xerox to test the Shop and Ride technology it developed on, before pitching it to transit agencies and incorporating it into trip-planning apps already running in Los Angeles and Denver.

Local transit advertising agency AR James Media worked with Xerox on ads in bus shelters, where beacon technology the size of a halved egg was placed to signal devices in range of merchants in the area. Beacons were also placed in 35 merchant sites, and that number will grow to 60 by summer’s end.

After downloading, app users spend a few seconds setting their personal preferences, which will influence the offers fed to their mobile devices.

Merchants share two offers a week and receive real-time tracking of anonymous save, open and redeem data. In this way, they learn from users’ interaction with their offers.

A Xerox survey of Philadelphia commuters two years ago found that public transit users would like points that could be redeemed for travel rewards, further incentivizing ridership, which is also being looked into, said Chris Holmes, Xerox payments and public sector vice president of mobile commerce solutions.

While New Jersey Transit isn’t part of the Shop and Ride pilot, he said, they’re an important customer “eager to understand how well it works” and if a community of users can be established.

“It’s a win for merchants because they’re promoting products and services people close to their stores have indicated interest in. It’s a win for riders because they can discover merchant services and products and access them at a discount or with the benefit of cost-effective travel,” Holmes said. “And transit agencies are excited because the offers and cheaper travel are underwritten by merchant participation. Plus there’s an incentive to travel off-peak hours.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

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