BlinkTag recently helped a client to brainstorm ideas on how to get suburban commuters to use carsharing, bike sharing and TNCs (Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft).

A key hurdle to getting people to use TNCs, carshare and bike share is getting them to try it the first time. Once someone has successfully used carsharing, bike sharing or TNCs, they are much more likely to do it again. Before their first time using it, people have a lot of unanswered questions:

  • general logistics
  • how much will it cost
  • how does the app work
  • what happens if I can’t find the car/driver/bike
  • how will I return the car

These initial questions make these modes seem confusing, difficult to use and make many people anxious about trying them.

After having successfully used carsharing, bike sharing or TNCs, all of these questions will have been answered and users will see them as easy to use and convenient. After first use, many people will continue to use these modes. So, focusing efforts on getting people to try carsharing, bike sharing or TNCs once will likely have a great impact.

Its also important to note that people won’t be excited about bike sharing, carsharing or TNCs if there are not bike share or carshare cars easily accessible in where the live or work. So its not worth promoting until these modes are actually established, and once they are its important to target just people who would have easy access to these.

There are two ways to get people to try bike sharing, carsharing and TNCs:

  • Pay them (i.e. make it free)
  • Supervise them/offer in person support to try them out

Ideas for promoting carsharing:

  • Have carshare test drives at street fairs and farmers markets in CC county with the ability to sign up for a membership.
  • Offer targeted coupons for people to try out carsharing for free for a day.
  • Make it easier/encourage people to use pre-tax transportation dollars for carsharing membership and usage fees.
  • Help organize deep discounted/subsidized carsharing memberships for groups such as large apartment buildings, city employees, college students, teachers, credit union members, churches, etc.
  • Encourage BART+carshare for errands/appointments where the last mile isn’t easy to reach.
  • Make a “How to use carsharing” video that shows exactly how to access a carsharing car, how to use it and how to return it and also ideas on the types of trips where carsharing is a good idea.

Ideas for promoting bike sharing:

  • Make bike sharing free for a day to try out, have staffed stations where users can take it for a spin and see how to check in/check out.
  • Offer short group rides/tours using bike share.
  • Make it easier/encourage people to use pre-tax transportation dollars for bike share membership and usage fees fees.
  • Help organize deep discounted/subsidized bike sharing memberships for groups such as large apartment buildings, city employees, college students, teachers, credit union members, churches, etc.
  • Encourage BART+bike share for errands/appointments where the last mile isn’t easy to reach.
  • Make a “How to use Bike Sharing” video that shows exactly how to access a bike sharing bike, lock it up and also suggests some specific ideas about where to bike.

Ideas for promoting TNCs:

  • Put a sign at a designated pickup spot at all BART stations/major transit hubs – this legitimizes TNCs, makes sure people wait in an area where its easy for Lyft/Uber drivers to find them, promotes their use to everyone and most importantly makes it simple for Lyft Line/Uberpool rides to pick up multiple people at the same exact curbside spot, minimizing wait time and congestion. Also, if there was a designated spot, users would be likely to find others heading in the same direction and informally agree to share an Uber/Lyft or even taxi and split the cost between them.
  • Encourage BART+TNC for trips where the last mile isn’t easy to reach, but BART beats tunnel/bridge congestion. BART for the majority of the distance and then TNC to the final destination. Make a video to promote the idea of TNC for last mile.
  • Offer an in-person class for seniors about how to use Lyft/Uber with a real demo and free credit.
  • Promote TNCs as a way to supplement existing company shuttles/vanpools when someone has to work late/shuttle full or delayed.
  • Make a “how to use TNC” video that explains exactly how it works.
  • Large employers could promote Lyft line/Uberpool among employees as an easy way to share a ride to work for users where regular carpooling isn’t feasible.

Screenshot_2_21_13_7_31_PMBlinkTag client Solo Kota Kita got a nice mention in today’s New York Times article about flooding and city planning in Indonesia.

“Jakarta is crazy,” said Ahmad Rifai, executive director of Solo Kota Kita, an organization in Surakarta that encourages residents to interact with local officials on city planning. “We need more than just one person to change it.”

Congrats to the SoloKotaKita team on running a successful model for citizen interaction in Indonesia.


Over the weekend of June 24th, Trucy, Jed and I all attended Startup Weekend Las Vegas. Startup Weekend takes place in cities around the world; it’s a 54-hour event that brings together “developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts” to share startup ideas, form teams and create startups.

Some of our favorite companies were created during Startup Weekends past – FoodSpotting (San Francisco 2009), Zaarly (Los Angeles May 2011) and LaunchRock (Philadelphia 2011) – so we figured we’d give it a go.

Normally we work on projects together, but during SWLV we took the opportunity to work with new people and joined three separate teams.

Jed worked on Terradrop, an open API that allows anyone to search through data tagged with a location.

The Terradrop team included Carly Gloge (design) and Isaac Squires (front end development) from the Boulder, CO-based Warb, and their colleague Craig McDonald (back end development), also from Colorado.    Terradrop is already in private beta, and the team is offering $1,000 to the best app using their API.

Trucy and her team created Pop A Song (@popasong), a web-based mobile interface that enables any smart phone user the ability to add songs to any karaoke DJ’s queue. Users of Pop A Song can also use the app to tip karaoke DJs and influence their turn in line, as well as search through any DJ’s catalogue by artist or song.

Team members were Brian Egan (frontend), Crystal Chang (backend), San Shyne (business), Jason Rios (business), and Trucy Phan (design).

Brendan worked on ClippPR, a PR clipping website that tracks news article’s comments, tweets, facebook likes and other buzz and shows which articles are trending. Their slogan is “Getting press is hard. Tracking it shouldn’t be”. The site was built on node.js by Jimmy Jacobson (backend), Thomas Knoll (business, project management), Wynn Wu (design), Jameson Detweiler (business, hustle), and Brendan Nee (frontend).

After an incredibly quick two days of coding and development, each of the sixteen teams gave a five-minute pitch to an all-star panel of judges composed of:

  • Tony Hsieh of Zappos
  • Kevin Rose of Digg/Revision3/Milk
  • Tom Anderson from Myspace [i.e. everyone’s friend]
  • Josh Reich from BankSimple
  • Ryan Carson of Carsonified

ClippPR’s 5-minute pitch:

The results

Startups AutoPlay and IamOTW tied for second, and ClippPR ended up taking first place! As Startup Weekend Las Vegas winners, ClippPR receives office space, IP consulting, and $2,000 cold cash.  ClippPR also picked up a prize for “Best integration of Paypal” (thanks Sidney!). Both Pop A Song and ClippPR were mentioned in Developers Blog for their team members’ business savvy. Read more in Lessons Learned from Startup Weekend Las Vegas.

Never thought BlinkTag would have an office in Vegas!


This is a followup to a post we did a while back that showed how to add the Google Transit and Google Bike layer to a google map using the Google Maps API. We’ve updated this with code based on Google Maps Javascript API version 3.

Google Maps API v3 now allows you to add the Bike route layer and traffic layer via the API, but there still isn’t an easy way to get at the transit layer.

To add the Bike layer:

To add the Traffic layer:

However, you can use the code below to add the Google Transit layer it as a custom tile layer. This will load the image tiles directly from Google’s servers:

This loads the full image types, so any other styles you’ve applied to the basemap will get covered up. Unlike Google Transit, the stations won’t be clickable and transit info won’t pop up unless you add your own markers to the map, but this should work ok for just showing transit routes.

You can see this technique live in our Realtime Transit Map project (also on github).


As part of the Google IO Last Call contest I created Walksy.com. Its a mobile app that will create an on-the-fly walking tour of San Francisco with up to 8 stops based on points of interest that I specified. It ended up working pretty well and won me a ticket to Google IO.



I think its actually a useful app, its quick and uses geolocation to grab your location making it one click (after you load the page) to generate a walking tour. It has links to google streetview and offers an elevation profile of the walk and optimizes the route to hit as many points of interest in as little distance as possible. It uses google maps walking directions for the base layer, and it seems to do pretty well with knowing pedestrian paths throughout the city.

I plan to add a few more features in the near future – I didn’t have time to add everything I imagined during the overnight coding challenge:

  • Some way to specify what types of points of interest you’d like to walk by
  • A way to specify roughly how long of a tour you’d like
  • More crazy points of interest based on my experience in SF
  • Extend it to work in other cities where I can get enough points of interest, perhaps using SimpleGeo Places API
  • A way to save your walk so you can come back to it later
  • Descriptions of the points of interest

The code is on github – its currently all client-side using jquery mobile and google maps API, google Fusion tables and other google APIs. Please fork it and add your own ideas or connect it to a different fusion table with your own set of points of interest.


I gave a 5 minute talk at Ignite #transpo for Transportation Camp on Saturday night at the awesome Automattic Lounge on Pier 38 (Thanks WordPress!). It was titled “How to Ask your Neighbor for a cup of car” and it covered Peer-to-peer carsharing, peer-to-peer parking sharing and “smart taxis”. I mentioned a lot of new services in my talk and lot of people asked me about them afterwards – so here is a list of companies I mentioned with links and a few notes on each:

Carsharing

City Carshare

  • San Francisco Bay Area Only
  • Compared to Zipcar: Cheaper per hour, more per mile – good for shorter distance trips within SF, Berkeley and Oakland
  • 179 locations, 313 cars
  • $5.50/hr $.35/mile (depending on plan)
  • http://citycarshare.com

Zipcar

  • Many Location Nationwide
  • Compared to City Carshare: Better for longer distance, shorter duration trips (running to San Jose and back)
  • 231 locations, 810 cars in the Bay Area
  • $7.50 – $12/hr (depending on plan)
  • http://zipcar.com

RelayRides

GetAround

  • Launched in San Francisco, Jan 2011
  • Currently free to Join, nearly instant approval via Facebook Connect
  • Supports in person key exchange and iPhone unlock
  • 96 cars (and growing)
  • Diverse array of cars including a Tesla and a Porche 911 Carrara
  • $5-$15/hr on average
  • http://getaround.com

Smarter Parking

Park Circa

Primo Spot

  • Launched in 2008
  • Supports New York, Boston and Seattle
  • Shows legal on street parking based on side of street and current time.
  • http://primospot.com

Taxis and Car Service

Cabulous

  • Works worldwide – most cars in San Francisco and San Diego
  • No prepayment required
  • Shows real time taxi locations, hail one and watch it come to you
  • Website and iPhone app
  • Bottom-up approach – any driver can use, doesn’t need fleet approval
  • http://cabulous.com

Taxi Magic

  • Supports many major US cities including SF
  • Trip is paid via app
  • iPhone, Android, Blackberry app only
  • Top-down approach – only certain taxi companies are available
  • http://taximagic.com

Uber

  • Car Service (fancy cars)
  • San Francisco and Palo Alto
  • Trip is paid via app
  • iPhone and Android only
  • 1.5 X the cost of a cab
  • Very fast, professional and reliable service
  • http://uber.com

Trucy wrote a great post about BlinkTag’s work with social media and transportation for the Open Transportation blog titled “Putting the “Public” Back in Public Transportation: Social Networks for the Car-free“.

In the post she goes over examples of what has worked and what hasn’t including examples of blog posts, tweets and facebook strategies. It turns out that tweets with more specific questions or a call to action get a lot more responses and Retweets than more generic tweets on the exact same topic:

Fr example:
a) Tax benefit for commuters who ride mass transit extended through 2011: http://511cc.org/h45lkg

1b) Do you set aside tax-deductible money for transit? By law, you’re allowed $230/month: http://511cc.org/h45lkg

Read more about this and other strategies in the full post over at the Open Transportation Blog.


Bikesy.com is now available in the Chrome Web Store. Bikesy is the open source bike mapper that BlinkTag developed using graphserver and openstreetmap data.

For those of you who haven’t tried bikesy, it lets you choose both a hill tolerance (how much you’d like to reroute to avoid San Francisco’s steep hills) and a safety level (how much you’d like to reroute to stay on bike routes and lanes). You can always visit Bikesy.com to find safe, fast bike routes around the San Francisco Bay Area but now you can add it as a Chrome App. This will do two things:

1. It will show up on your apps list when you open a new tab. This makes it fast and easy to launch Bikesy right before you set off on a bike trip to get route suggestions.

2. You’ll only need to approve geolocation once. Chrome apps allow you to grant access to bikesy.com to find your location based on browser geolocation once. The next time you return to bikesy.com and click “Map to my current location” it will just work.

Give it a try – add the Bikesy Chrome Application or just visit bikesy.com.


The WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar

WordPress 3.1 was released todayand it includes a bunch of nice improvements. The admin bar is very useful, however for some sites you might not want it showing up for all users.

You can disable the admin bar from showing up on a user-by-user basis by editing your user preferences (see below). However, this requires having each user manually hide the Admin Bar.

If you want to disable the WordPress Admin Bar for all users except administrators add the following to your theme’s functions.php file:


If you want to disable the admin bar completely, just add this:


There is also a WordPress plugin that will do this for you, but its easy enough to add a line to functions.php.


BlinkTag worked with the County Connection in Central Contra Costa County to format their schedules and routes into General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

A GTFS file is an open specification that allows a transit agencies schedule and route information to be used by developers in a variety of applications. One of the most popular applications that uses GTFS data is Google Map’s Transit Trip Planner. County Connection’s routes are now available on google maps website and on smartphones that have google maps available. Also, the transit data is now open for developers to incorporate into their apps. Examples of transit apps include Routesy, Bay Tripper and Anystop

See a sample trip on google transit: Walnut Creek, CA to Alamo, CA
Get raw GTFS file: CCCTA GTFS on GTFA Data Exchange


BlinkTag recently finished a project in Indonesia called Solo Kota Kita. We worked with a team in Indonesia to build a series of interactive maps for the city of Solo, Indonesia. This data was collected for very small regions of the city called “RTs” and complied. The statistics collected included sanitation, education, population and housing info.

The Solo Kota Kita team just prepared a video in Bahasa with subtitles that gives a great overview of the project and why it is important.

The Solo Kota Kita project has been written about in Good Magazine and Design Observer.

Check out the site and interactive neighborhood-level maps at solokotakita.org.


BlinkTag team members Caroline Dickie and Preston Theler made a series of short screencasts for 511 Contra Costa on a variety of topics related to using the WordPress admin panel. These will be useful for anyone who is new to WordPress.

Adding Tags to a WordPress Post

Adding Links to a WordPress Post

Adding a BlockQuote to a WordPress Post

Embedding a PDF into a WordPress Post or Page using scribd

Embedding a YouTube video into a WordPress Post

Adding a photo to a WordPress Post

Adding a photo gallery to a WordPress Post

Properly Attributing Photos

Linking a photo to another page

Easy photo editing with picnik

Searching for Creative Commons photos on Flickr

Embedding a PDF in WordPress

Image manipulation in WordPress


An article was published in the most recent edition of TDM Review, a quarterly publication on transportation demand management published by the Association for Commuter Transportation.

The article titled: When Viral is Good – How Social Media Can Engage Travelers and Boost TDM Effectiveness (starting on page 21) goes over the social media strategy that BlinkTag has helped develop at 511 Contra Costa. BlinkTag helps 511 Contra Costa manage their social media (facebook page, twitter and a blog) on a day-to-day basis.


>We named our company after the most hated HTML tag of all time. I just found a desciption of the origin of the BlinkTag by the person who came up with it, Lou Montulli. Its an interesting read, apparently it was meant as an easter egg and was initially undocumented:

“I remember thinking that this would be a pretty harmless easter egg, that no one would really use it, but I was very wrong. When we released Netscape Navigator 1.0 we did not document the blink functionality in any way, and for a while all was quiet.”

I like Lou’s reaction to the first time he saw the BlinkTag in the wild:

“It was a lot like Las Vegas, except it was on my screen, with no way of turning it off.”

Read the rest of the Origin of the Blinktag.