More people would use public transportation if free wifi was provided

In our connected world, this is the one big advantage that buses, trains and planes can offer over cars:

According to a just-released DePaul University study, riders are more likely than ever to spend their commute plugged in, whether they’re traveling by plane, train or bus. All told, more than 90 percent of passengers use a digital device at some point during their trip. And more often than not, it’s a device with a screen, rather than a cell phone or iPod.

That in itself isn’t so surprising: the proliferation of handheld technology means it’s almost impossible to disconnect. More interesting is this little nugget, from a blog post by researcher Joseph Schwieterman:

A survey we administered to riders waiting at curbside boarding locations showed that almost half consider Wi-Fi important when they choose a travel mode, and about 55% plan to send texts or emails on their trip. The ability to freely use portable devices, while undoubtedly less important than the low fares, helps explain why so many affluent travelers now hop on curbside buses, even when travel times are longer. With more than 400 daily departures, this sector has grown by more than 25% annually over the past several years.

More people are getting smartphones, which makes public transportation more appealing. You can do work, surf the Web, go on social media, watch videos, etc. But not every device has a data plan. There tens of millions of wifi-only iPads. There are even more iPod touches and similar devices.

Will we see more people demanding public transportation because that will allow them to stay connected while commuting?