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Mobile app makes commuting social

A new mobile phone application that allows passengers to leave virtual messages and drawings on bus seats will put an end to awkward conversations on public transport.

QUT PhD researcher Jimmy Ti has released a free iPhone application through the Apple App Store today, which is being trialled on the QUT inter-campus shuttle bus between Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove this month.

The app, called 391 PaX, includes a map of the interior of the 391 QUT bus, with passengers able to click on individual seats to leave virtual messages or drawings.

Mr Ti, from QUT’s Mobile Innovations Lab and Urban Informatics Lab, said users would be able to ‘check in’ via Foursquare and Facebook to share their travel plans with friends and unlock features to interact with other passengers.

“Public transit companies are doing a lot of work to make buses and trains more comfortable and to increase services, but they’re not focusing on making a trip more enjoyable for passengers,” he said.

“A lot of passengers have mobile phones and entertain themselves while on the bus, but in general people are reluctant to have any social interactions. Everybody is in their own bubble.

“Sharing travel plans among friends can hopefully encourage ridesharing and increase the likelihood of meeting friends during the otherwise mundane journey.”

Mr Ti said a chat feature would allow passengers to instant message other app users on the bus, with people able to share tips about upcoming events or where to eat around Brisbane.

Passengers can also respond to moderated questions such as: “What will make your trip more enjoyable” through the app.

Mr Ti planned to make the app available on the Apple App Store to Brisbane public transit users for trains, buses and the City Cat after the QUT trial ends.

He said his research with focus groups showed that people wanted to interact with others on public transport, but they were picky about with whom.

“The main reason why passengers don’t interact with others is because it’s a bit awkward to strike up a conversation,” Mr Ti said.

“People in general do like to have interactions, but they are selective. You can’t pick who sits beside you.

“This app will lower the barrier to get people to talk and make travel time more meaningful.

“A companion when traveling can make time fly by.”

Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, stephanie.harrington@qut.edu.au

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