Active Transportation Information Needed at Event-Planning Websites

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Jessica examines walkability, car-free, and economic issues. She lives in Washington D.C. and has also lived in Austin and South Florida.
June 7, 2013

Two people discuss ways to have healthier, safer, more enjoyable transportation options at an event in Chicago

I was recently organizing an event in downtown Austin, Texas. The event space was partially chosen because it offered ease of access, with many public-transportation options.

I built the event page where guests would register online. But soon after the event was posted to this event-planning web service, I received a message to add the Capital Metro Trip Planner. Of course I wanted to add this. After all, the event I was planning was an America Walks/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Walkability Workshop. It made sense that a lot of people attending would consciously choose not to drive.

An event-planning website that has “active transportation” information. More of these websites need to offer more than just parking information.

But why had I, of all people – someone who encourages others to use active transportation – neglected to include the trip planner in the first place? I’m interested in mobility technology and even know some app founders, so it wasn’t that I couldn’t figure out the technology.

Was it because the event was discussing walkability, and I just assumed the registration site would include targeted information for people interested in walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation? Indeed, Kevin Callahan, co-founder MapMyFitness, was speaking at this very event. (It would have been really cool if the registration site could have included a health app related not just to traveling to and from the conference but also somehow related to healthy food choices for the conference attendees.)

Well, having since moved from Austin back to Washington D.C./Arlington, Virginia, I’ve been installing car-free apps like SpotCycle and I joined Capital Bikeshare last week. I am also attending health-, tech-, and transportation-related events while taking a mental note of other event planners’ registration webpages. It seems that they largely neglect adding links to trip planners.

Still curious, I checked out events being held in other major cities like Chicago and New York City. Most event sites didn’t include these links/apps/resources. They should, and how awesome would it be to have the apps or links built right into the registration pages? And they could have different ones depending on where the events are held. For example, in D.C. and Austin, these resources could be included on event-planning pages:

  • DC: Capital BikeShare, Car2Go, DC Apps, Hailo MyTaxi, WMATA Trip Planner, ZipCar, CarFreeDiet Arlington Trip Planner
  • Austin: Dadnab, CapitalMetro, Commute Solutions, RideScout, RideJoy, Rocket Electrics, Taxi-Cabs, Pedi-Cabs, ZipCar, Car2Go

I came up with this idea after a phone conversation with Julia Fischer, director of events and operations at Tech Cocktail, which hosts events in different communities throughout the U.S. I looked at upcoming events listed on the Tech Cocktail site and found the same thing. So I sent a follow-up email to Julia about including apps and links by city. Hopefully it will happen. I mean, it seems that event planners would do anything to make it easier for potential conference attendees to register for events and not have to spend the extra time looking up transportation information after they have registered.

Offering a Google Map option is nice, but promoting “active transportation” is a logical fit for most event plans.

What I learned is that the next events I organize, or am a part of, will include information about mobility options online that will, in turn, improve the overall satisfaction of event-planners’ customers and the experience of the conference in general.

I encourage you to do the same: please contact event organizers and event-planning websites to encourage them to add “active transportation” information online for their next events. 

Photo by Steven Vance

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Roger L. Cauvin June 7, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Good points. We need more “widgets” that web administrators can plug into their event sites to provide quick and easy active transportation information.

The Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA) has for years included a “transit” link alongside any “map” or “parking” link in its newsletters and event notifications. I think it’s a good guideline to ALWAYS provide information about active modes whenever an event organizer or promoter gives parking information.

Thanks for the mention of Dadnab. Please note that it operates not only in Austin but nine other regions in the U.S.: San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Portland, Seattle, Southern California, and the Tri-State NY/NJ/CT Region.

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avatar Richard Layman June 7, 2013 at 10:59 PM

I suggested something like this years ago, that transit agencies should make trip planner widgets that other websites can integrate into their pages. It started with MTA. I said since MTA pays in part for WMATA, they should share code. I don’t remember if the MTA trip planner is the same as WMATA’s.

But the SmarTrip card for WMATA is integrated with MTA’s Charm Card (you can use either card on either system). And the Baltimore MPO uses the DC MPO’s commuter ridesharing system. And the Maryland Highway Safety Office uses the not very good traffic safety ads produced for the DC area MPO elsewhere in Maryland.

I’ve also suggested that local governments do this with calendars. I suggested this to the dude who went on to work for Obama, but they never implemented it in DC.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2006/05/idea-to-make-dcgov-calendar-more.html

And that a feed of community org. related ads could be fed to various other community websites and blogs.

cf. http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/05/all-talk-of-e-government-digital.html

FWIW, the Pittsburgh area organizations are very good about including transit info in their websites, brochures, etc.

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avatar Joseph Kopser June 15, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Combing all your options into one place is exactly what RideScout is trying to do. We could not agree more that it needs to go on their event websites. More importantly, RideScout is a mobile app so you can use it to plan your departure at the end of an event as well. Getting home safely is actually the most important part.

We currently have your public transit (in almost every city in the US) and Car2go in 7 US and more ride providers coming on every month.

Download now for free in the Apple store. Android version coming this summer.

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