Pigeon Transit App by Google's Area120. Image Credit: ABC, Inc.

Meet Pigeon, Google’s Crowdsourced Public Transit App

The late aughts’ most memorable catch-phrase: There’s an app for that.

And, truly there is. But just when you think you already have all the apps you need, Google’s Area120 development group releases Pigeon Transit.

Pigeon does for commuters braving public transportation what Waze did for drivers navigating the roads. It’s crowdsourced, so that means that real-time updates are always reliable, provided by the app’s users, people on the scene witnessing delays and reporting back so that other Pigeon Transit users know precisely which route will be fastest.

Pigeon Transit App by Google's Area120. Image Credit: ABC, Inc.

Pigeon Transit App by Google’s Area120. Image Credit: ABC, Inc.

This could save commuters on time spent traveling, as well as preemptively combating headaches and frustration by helping commuters avoid trouble spots. Alerts and custom notifications can help you to avoid delays on your usual route, suggesting alternatives, all before you even get out the door. What will YOU do with the time you save each day? You could take a power nap, you could learn a language. You could do yoga. Lift weights. Or, simply veg out. Your choice.

Want to know about the latest construction? There’s an app for that. Want to know about where the crowds are lurking? There’s an app for that. Want to know what buses or trains are experiencing delays? There’s an app for that. It’s all the same app: Pigeon Transit by Area120. And it doesn’t stop there: Users can also find out how clean a station or train line is, and a whole lot more.

Pigeon Workout Avatar. Image Credit: ABC, Inc.

Pigeon Workout Avatar. Image Credit: ABC, Inc.

In case you were wondering what Area120 is, think of the secretive Area 51. Now add 69, the symbol for the birth sign Cancer (when placed on its side), a number ascribed with the spiritual meaning of stability, to 51. You’ll arrive at Area120, Google’s secretive NYC test lab where creativity and innovation collide, producing incredible new ideas. Pigeon Transit is the brainchild of Laura Rokita, one of Area120’s team members. The idea came to her while wasting time waiting for public transportation.

If you want to become what Area120 calls a Transit Hero, just download the app and start contributing. And, keep contributing. Top contributors will be rewarded with purple pigeon prizes, according to the Area120 web site, “…so much swag you’ll wonder if your Pigeon-purple mug, Pigeon-purple bag, and Pigeon-purple mug beanie are too matchy all together.”

Staten Island Ferry. Image Credit. Village Hero

Staten Island Ferry. Image Credit. Village Hero

But that’s not all. Transit Heroes will have access to a Pigeon Community Manager, as well as a private online forum reserved for Transit Heroes only, a place where you can ask all the questions you want about the app, make your own wise suggestions, and preview yet-unreleased future features.

Lastly, you will be invited to the Google NYC campus to meet the Pigeon team, the elusive creative combo that IS Area120. You’ll also get the chance to meet the other Transit Heroes who are helping to make the app the most useful it could possible be for others New Yorkers. To apply for Transit Hero status, click on THIS LINK.

NYC Subway. Image Credit: Henrik Johansson

NYC Subway. Image Credit: Henrik Johansson

Pigeon is available only for iOS users right now, but the app may be expanded to Android. You can even sign up to be on the waiting list on the Pigeon Transit website, and you’ll be notified once the Android version arrives.

Here are some questions we sent to Area120, following by their replies:

What was the inspiration for this app?

Pigeon Transit is made up of a team of New Yorkers who believe in public transit, and see an exciting opportunity to use crowdsourcing to make it better. Subways, buses, rails and ferries are the lifeblood of any major transit city, but continue to be a source of frustration for daily commuters when things go awry. Pigeon believes it can substantially improve daily commuting with real-time, crowdsourced data contributed by riders for riders.

Why did Google believe it was the right time to bring the Pigeon app to market?

Pigeon is lovingly designed and built by a small team based in New York as a part of Google’s Area 120, a workshop for experimental products.
Pigeon Transit started experimenting with providing real-time, crowdsourced updates for NYC public transit riders–starting with subway riders in September of 2018, and expanding to rail, ferry and bus riders in August of 2019. Given the success of this initial experiment, Pigeon expanded to 5 new U.S. cities in November, including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Pigeon covers NYC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and D.C. Are there plans to expand this to other US cities? Worldwide? If so, when?

We look forward to being able to service public transit riders everywhere with real-time, crowdsourced data. If you are interested in Pigeon coming to a specific city, please add it to our waitlist here!

Is the Staten Island Railroad included?

Yes, we service the SIR.

Are there plans to integrate city buses into the Pigeon app, or create a twin app for bus travel, maybe Squirrel?

Real-time bus arrivals are reported in Pigeon Transit today.

“Are you interested in helping bring Pigeon to your city?” is the last question on the Pigeon Android wait-list. What are the actions users will be encouraged to undertake?

We are excited to meet transit enthusiasts in other cities who want to improve public transportation. We might reach out to these individuals to help with research as we expand. The Transit Hero Program is also a great example of how passionate individuals can get more involved with our team upfront. See more detail on our website here!

What makes using Pigeon different? What kind of user experience were you trying for?

There are many other apps that help riders get around via public transportation — some of the most popular ones are Google Maps, CityMapper, Transit, and Moovit. These apps all display the open transit data and real-time alerts provided by the local transit authority. Pigeon also displays this information.

Pigeon also has unique data provided by riders. We give this information back to the community in the form of real-time crowd levels, up-to-the-second delay or disruption alerts, and even photos and comments to give you more confidence about what’s really happening.

Lastly, Pigeon is focused on helping locals get around faster, happier, and in control. With only a couple clicks, you see everything you need to know about your daily commute and what’s available nearby.

Pigeon Transit App answers by Google attributed to Laura Rokita, Founder of Pigeon

5 Comments

  • Avatar K0Z/|/|0Z says:

    Whoopie. Another app. Just what we all need.

  • Avatar T. Andrianakis says:

    i was so excited then saw it is only for iphone 🙁

  • Avatar CT1973 says:

    So what’s the catch?

    Is it free for now and later it will be for pay only?

  • Avatar i.heart.molly says:

    I’ve been a pigeon addict since it came out. Well a month after actually. I don’t know how I survived before this. Oh, that’s right, I was pulling my hair out and biting my nails!!! Funny thing is, I must have gotten hundreds of more hours back from the transit system in time I’ve saved BUT I feel like I don’t have a minute more. A different topic, so not trying to hijack the thread..

  • Avatar TAKI says:

    love the video of the bird taking the subway.

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