Most of the articles in this series are translating the concepts of user interface usability from the web to the transit system, not web interface usability. However, here is a claim of a web usability improvement increasing ridership by Google Transit mapping routes for the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA). The claim is that ridership grew 12% and it is implied in the article that Google Transit is responsible but there was no supporting evidence of Google Transit increasing ridership in the article. Before attributing ridership increases to Google Transit I would have to see web traffic analysis from Google, which as far as I know is a very secretive company and shows nothing to anyone. Even so, just because I see no evidence does not mean there was not an improvement in the ridership of DTA from the effects of Google Transit it just means I am thinking of other ways to explain the that ridership increase.
Could the ridership be increasing because the DTA fare costs are low, at least compared to Metro Transit St. Paul - Minneapolis, and the fact that gasoline costs have gone up?
Peak time fare for the DTA is $1.25, off peak is $0.60, compare that to Minneapolis - St Paul Metro Transit peak time fare of $2.00 (local) to $2.75 (express) and an off peak fare of $1.25; DTA has only about half the fare cost of the St Paul - Minneapolis Metro Transit, a much better deal for the people using Duluth - Superior DTA services. A fare increase could stop the DTA ridership increase quickly, or conversely, how much of a ridership increase could Minneapolis - St. Paul Metro Transit get by cutting its fare by half? So, is the ridership increase a factor of low cost fares and an easy to understand fare structure?
Many transit systems have shown recent increases before Google Transit could have had much effect. Many of those systems had cheap fares relative to the rise in gas prices and that may have affected ridership of bus lines and transit ridership in general. The economy is now not doing so well as the housing and building industry is crashing and transit use probably increases when people are less able to afford cars. Duluth - Superior is not known as an economic powerhouse even in the best of times, is a transit ridership increase a widespread economic pattern for economically depressed areas? Does that apply to Duluth - Superior?
DTA is a very small transit system with few riders and routes so small fluctuations in numbers could translate to a large percentage of ridership. For example, if there are 10 riders / day and one more rider shows up that is a 10% increase vs. a system that is ten times larger like 100 riders / day and if one more rider shows up that is only a 1% increase. Is the ridership increase real? I would guess that 12% means that there is some increase, how much of an increase it really is is not very clear from the article.
I would guess that basic economics contribute more than a web tool to the ridership increase and that as far as usability is concerned the cheapness and simplicity of the DTA fare structure may have more to do with usability and its effects on ridership than a web tool like Google Transit. Am I against Google Transit? No, I like the interface and if Metro Transit used it I would probably use it in preference to the Metro Transit web trip tool which I have rarely used. Google Transit uses a nice map interface that matches the popular Google Maps, which I have used, and so seems much easier to use and understand, while in contrast the Metro Transit planner is just text; without a map it is difficult to figure out the route described by the Metro Transit planner.