Is everyone equal as regards transit apps?

Excerpt from the results of the thesis led by François Adoue in the context of a CIFRE convention involving 6t research and the Town Transport Mobility Laboratory (Laboratoire Ville Mobilité Transport).

The results presented are based on the use of 23 semi-open interviews and on an online questionnaire-based survey* filled in by over 1000 respondents. The sample (888 people after the database was tidied) was adjusted according to age, gender, socio-professional position and place of residence, in order to present results which were representative of subscribers to public transport networks across the Parisian urban area.

Among subscribers to public transport who own a smartphone, 9 out of 10 have at least one transit app. In 80% of cases, the user will in this case have a number of apps: RATP, Vianavigo, Transilien, Google Maps, other GPS systems, other apps. Rates of use are high, with 91% of people having an appl used within at least the last 30 days. And resorting to apps emerges as being an imbedded practice : 96 % of people equipped with a mobility assistance app believe that they will use it in future.

Within this growing trend of using transit apps, it seems that local transport operators play a prominent role. In point of fact, the RAPT application rivals at the top, with Google Maps (see graph below). This rivalry is all the more obvious given that the Google Maps app is very often pre-installed on smartphones while the RATP app has to be downloaded.


While these is now widespread use of mobility apps, the frequency of the usage varies from user to user.


Inequalities in ability to use a smartphone

Users are not all capable of using their smartphones as efficiently. Our research, therefore, has developed a methodology to measure ability to use a smartphone which has shown that only 50% of respondents use it perfectly:

  • Perfect ability to use a smartphone (50%) users perfectly master the full functionality of a smartphone. Whether these are concerned with classic phone functionalities (SMS, calls, photography, etc.) or with functionalities specific to the smartphone (Internet browsing, downloading apps, etc.).
  • A good ability to use a smartphone(36%): users are familiar with the vast majority of functions, with the exception of certain specific features on a smartphone (downloading files, apps, etc.).
  • Limited ability to use a smartphone (14%) users face many difficulties in using functionalities specific to smartphones as well as to traditional mobile phones

The difference in between these levels of ability can be explained, at least in part, by classic socio-demographic determiners. For example, ability to use a smartphone decreases with age, and emerges as being better among students or individuals falling into a higher socio-professional bracket.

Differentiated use of transit apps

Four main features made available by mobility assistance applications can be identified:

  • Researching an itinerary
  • Checking stop times
  • Viewing the public transport network’s map
  • Geolocation

In addition, use of these four functionalities significantly varies in relation level of of ability to use a smartphone. Concerning these four features, daily usage increases according to the level of ability to use a smartphone. Consequently, of all users who have a perfect mastery of the smartphone, over one in two regularly uses these various functionalities. Conversely,  the majority of travellers who are the least at ease in using a smartphone only uses each of the functionalities studied occasionally or never.

Capture d’écran 2016-06-22 à 13.15.34

These results confirm that the growth in the rate of owning a smartphone is not sufficient to fill in the digital gap. This remains a reality in usage and in the ability to use digital objects. Consequently, even when residents of the Paris urban area have a smartphone and are connected to the network, they are not equal as regards transit apps use. The improvement of travel conditions, which is made possible through the broadcasting of transit apps, may reinforce certain mobility inequalities if only the most digitally competent travellers are to benefit from it.



* The online survey conducted by 6t research benefited from broadcasting through the RAPT newsletter (400 respondents). The sample was completed by access panel competition (600 respondents).

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Photo credit: 6t, 2014

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