Walking down the street in the near future, you may encounter a massive projection on the sidewalk. Or wall-mounted displays in office lobbies. What you’re seeing is the transportation network coming to life.
“As urban mobility gets more complex, the problem of how to get informed is only getting more severe,” said Matt Caywood, CEO and co-founder of TransitScreen, which manufactures multi-modal transit info boards. “That’s the problem we’re trying to solve, globally, and I’m as excited about it now as I was when we started at Mobility Lab.”
(TransitScreen’s open-source software was born as part of Mobility Lab’s tech fellowship program in 2011.)
Today, TransitScreen’s windows into real-time transit options have been popping up in more and more places. And that pace is picking up, with this week’s announcement that TransitScreen is receiving $800,000 in new seed capital from Middle Bridge Partners, Alex Bresler, Mark Decker, Jr., 1776 Ventures, and other angel investors.
“TransitScreen provides a great platform to millions of people in cities around the globe to make urban life easier,” said Omer Er, managing partner of Middle Bridge Partners. “It is a solution suitable for every city in the world from New York to Beijing, from Istanbul to São Paulo.”
Caywood said the D.C.-headquartered TransitScreen will use the new funding to grow its sales team, led by Tony Hudgins, and to expand its workforce as well. He expects this ramp-up will have the screens and displays in 5,000 locations in 40 cities across 10 countries, and in 10 languages, by the end of the year. Caywood’s long-term goal is to be in one million locations in 100 countries by 2020. That expansion is already on its way: TransitScreens are becoming more of a common sight in the D.C. area and in 32 other cities.
“One of our highest density neighborhoods is Arlington, Va. We have 15 sites in private buildings along the Wilson Boulevard corridor alone,” Caywood said. “Our six strongest markets are Washington, D.C., [which includes Arlington], Boston, Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and New York City, and we expect London and Paris to be the fastest-growing internationally.”
These information boards are so important because, in places with multiple transportation options (and even in places with limited transit but private services like Lyft and car2go), knowing where and when our options exist is a necessity to navigating urban environments.
The screens themselves could eliminate many annoyances we’ve come to accept: arriving at an empty bikeshare station; waiting alone on a subway platform for 15 minutes when you could have stayed at the bar for one more drink; constantly checking your smartphone while walking down the street.
And even though there are dozens of smartphone apps that provide similar transportation information, a public display screen makes the process easier, more accessible to those without smartphones, and a more natural piece of the urban landscape.
“From Boston to Beijing, cities and people have the same problems. Even though you’ll see different mixes of transportation choices in different cities, people get information in the same way,” Caywood added.
The extra funding for real-time information is particularly topical given the broad push for investments in connected “smart cities,” such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge, which will award one city with a $40 million grant.
“A city with TransitScreen displays makes its citizens smarter – which to us is the definition of a ‘smart city,’” Caywood said. “We are in active talks with nearly all USDOT Smart City Challenge finalists.
“We want to organize transportation information and make it timely and relevant for everyone. Subway or bikeshare or self-driving car, public or private transportation, it increasingly doesn’t matter. That’s a ‘multi-modal mission’ we can all get behind.”
Photos, from top: The SmartWalk mockup, as portrayed in the Mosaic District of Fairfax, Va., provides directions to nearby transit (design by Brenner Vasquez for TransitScreen). A TransitScreen projection in Tysons Corner Center in Virginia. Bottom, a mockup of a TransitScreen projection in New York City. All photos courtesy of TransitScreen.