What's the Latest Development?

California-based Urban Engines thinks it may have the solution to public transportation gridlock: Reward commuters who choose to travel during off-peak hours. It works by collecting data from city transit programs -- card swipes, for example -- and feeding it into their software models, which then produce estimates that alert travelers when congestion is at its peak. Interested participants who sign up would earn points or some other form of credit for heading out during off-peak times.

What's the Big Idea?

Simply put, congestion is expensive for both cities and commuters. Many different solutions exist, and some of them offer disincentives, such as fines for entering certain city areas during rush hour. With the right kinds of rewards, and enough understanding employers, a solution like Urban Engines' could make a real difference. Even without the rewards, cities can use the real-time data to help make their systems run more smoothly. Currently Singapore is trying out the incentives program, while Washington and Sao Paulo are using the software to learn more about the effects of congestion on their train and bus systems respectively.

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