After writing yesterday's post on the economics of opendata and transit I've really been reflecting on a research question that emerged in the piece: Does having transit data embedded in Google Maps increase ridership?
My hypothesis is that it would... but I did some googling on the topic and couldn't find anything written on the subject, not to mention something that had been rigorously researched and would stand up to peer review. This leads me to believe it could be a great research project. I willing to bet that some transit authorities, and google would be of enormously interested in the results.
Obviously there are a number of variables that might impact public transit ridership: budgets, fleet size growth or cutbacks, the economy, population growth, etc... That said, I'm sure there is someone out there who could think of a methodology that would account for these factors and still allow us to tell if becoming available in Google Maps impact's a city's ridership levels.
The helpful thing is that there are lots of data points to play with. A brief scan of the public transit feed lists suggests that there are roughly 150 cities that provide Google with GTFS data of the transit schedule. That's a lot of cities to play with and would allow a study to offset regional variations. I'm also confident that each of the transit authorities mentioned in the list publicly publish their ridership levels (or they could be FOIAed/ATIPed)
If anyone has done this study, please let me know, I'd love to know more. If no, and someone is interested in doing this study, please go for it! I'm definitely happy to offer whatever support I can.
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