people out walking!

Last evening I went for a walk, heading north to the Sac Northern trail, then the American River Parkway to Discovery Park, then across the Jibboom Bridge and into old town. I’d certainly seen bicyclists and a few walkers, but when I got to old town, there were hundreds of people walking around. I noticed they almost all had cell phones in hand, not that unusual, but still. I headed south along the river and saw yet more people. Then back along R Street where there were few people, until I got to the main part of R Street, and then into Fremont Park where there were yet more people. Remember, this was a Monday night largely after sunset, when I might see 10 people out walking in an evening, and I’d already seen at least 300. What was going on?

Well, you more culturally/technologically literate already know, but it took me some time to figure out. Pokemon GO! All of these people were playing the game on smart phones, looking for pokemons (is that the correct plural?).

I had heard a bit about the game, but didn’t realize it was taking the country by storm. Today, there were more prominent articles on all the media, even showing up on my main two news sources, Streetsblog and Strong Towns. I sat at Karma Brew with a Rasputin, and observed the goings-on in the park and along the streets.

So, what I saw, that I liked:

  1. People were out walking on a night when I would not usually see anyone. This means these people were getting physical activity when they would otherwise be in front of TV or computer.
  2. People were walking, looking at their smart phones, but they had their heads up, looking around, with the phone in their field of view but not their sole focus. Unlike most users whose heads are down and completely oblivious to what is around them. I’m not going to claim walking with a phone is safe, but I will say what I saw last night is significantly safer than what many people already do.
  3. People were talking to people in other groups, interacting with people they didn’t know. This is quite unusual. Even at bars and coffee shops, where people theoretically to to socialize, most people hang with their own group and do not interact much if at all with others.
  4. I heard people making comments like “I never knew that was there,” and “I always wondered what that was.” They were seeing things with new eyes. I am not sure how much of this discovery is designed into the app, but whatever is there results in people looking.
  5. People were hanging out in gathering places, old town, the promenade, R Street, Fremont Park. Again, whatever the design, this is where the pokemons were.
  6. People were not drinking. I have no problem with drinking, as long as you don’t drive, but I have to admit is was great to see so many people having such a good time without drinking.

As with any new technology, and any new social media, there will be hiccups. But on the whole I can see so many positives to this latest fad. I think I’m going to try it myself, though obviously not on my backpack trips. No pokemons out there!

RideSacRT app

RideSacRTI have been using the RideSacRT app for a bit of time, and have some initial impressions.

When I started, I could not get the app to accept credit cards, which is the only way to pay for tickets. It rejected three different cards (two credit and one debit). I asked about that via Twitter, and SacRT responded that they were aware of problems with some credit cards. After a couple of days, I tried again, and my main card was accepted.

It is fairly easy to purchase tickets. Tap on the the “buy tickets” icon on the lower left, select the length (single or daily pass) and type (basic or discount), and the quantity, and then “add to cart.” Then select select your card, or enter your card if you have not used it before, and then “pay now” and “purchase.” You can then use your ticket immediately, or later by selecting “ticket manager” from the pull-up menu in the lower right corner.

RideSacRT-TicketWalletThe ticket, once selected for use, lasts for 90 minutes and is good on buses and light rail.

William Burg and others have been discussing whether this 90 minute window offered to smart phone users is fair to people who pay cash, and only get one ride. If there were ticket machines available everywhere, it might be reasonable to require that someone pre-purchase a ticket of some sort, but there are not machines everywhere. People paying cash do slow down boarding of buses, often fumbling for the right change and search for money in various places. This is significant because dwell time, the amount of time a bus spends stopped, the largest determinant of how efficient the route is. This is why transit agencies are experimenting with smart phone apps and transit cards like the Connected Card, coming to SacRT some time this century. I’m not sure how I feel about the equity issue.

The app cannot purchase or store passes. The app is a six month pilot, so it is possible that other capabilities will be added during or at the end of the pilot.

The app also offers routing. It opens with a display of a Google Maps centered on the current location, and start/end fields at the top. But the search routine is seriously flawed. It cannot find street intersections. For example, a search for Folsom and 65th St came up with a location far south on 65th St. It cannot find transit stops unless you know and can enter the exact name of the stop. For example, a search for 65th St Station produces nothing, since the actual name of that station University/65th St. If you type a partial match, a list of suggestions is provided, but that list cannot be scrolled, it pops back to the first two on the list and anything further down (which is likely since the matching is so poor) cannot be selected. For example, type “65th” and see what happens. The app is perfectly happy to match partial names to places completely outside the SacRT service area. For example, Berkeley.

So, my first take is that the ticket purchase is worthwhile, but the routing function is worthless.

Note: I’ve not offered a screenshot of an active ticket because I’m not in Sacramento at the moment, and it would waste a ticket to use one.