Cognitive Tax of Riding Public Transit: Is it really a thing?

Article by: Tom Wiese, Sales Associate at Passport

Cognitive Tax and Public Transit

Taking public transit isn’t necessarily as simple as plugging your address into your GPS and arriving at your location. Wouldn’t that be nice though? Most of the time opting to take public transportation requires a little more effort than letting your GPS do all the dirty work. Whether you’re visiting a new city for a weekend vacation or taking the light rail uptown for your 9-5, transit requires the necessary amount of mental bandwidth to successfully handle your route.

Everyday Riders

For the transit rider who hops on the metro every morning at 8:30am, your go-to transit commute is engrained in your mind – naturally. Initially, it might have taken time to get accustomed to which metro line you needed to take to get home or how many stops there were until your destination, but you’ve gotten through the natural pain points of conquering the transit system. Whether or not you thought taking public transit was overwhelming; it’s now a part of your everyday routine.

Transient Riders

On the contrary, there’s the transient rider. The transient rider who is in town for vacation or a business day trip; they’re the riders who don’t know the transit system because they don’t need to – they don’t live in the city. Being able to successfully handle a new city’s transit system can be daunting, overwhelming, and frustrating, particularly more so since you’re not native to the city.

As a transient rider, taking public transit can result in cognitive tax, also known as scarcity mind-set. Cognitive tax is used to describe “the mental state of those living in poverty or other stressful situations, also known as scarcity mind-set. The more uncertainty in your life, the more mental work you need to expend, which takes a toll on the quality and number of tasks that can be completed.” As a transient rider, you express cognitive tax due to not being fully accustomed to a new transit system. For many, this can result in a stressful situation as you attempt to get to your final destination. We’re used to our normal schedule and route; we know when to wake up, what time to eat breakfast, and when we need to head into the office. When it comes to taking transit, normalcy can be impaired by cognitive tax, which can ultimately prevent you from accomplishing your goal and/or pose a distraction from your routine.

Mobile Ticketing Reduces Cognitive Tax

Whether you’re a transient rider who needs to take public transportation due to a business trip or you’ve recently moved to a new area – the transit experience can increase the scarcity mind-set. As mobile ticketing makes its entrance into the transit industry, we’re seeing a decrease in cognitive tax. This decrease means that riders are not only willing to take public transit, but are seeing a decrease in stressors. Mobile ticketing is the ability for riders to handle the entire transit experience from the convenience of their smartphone. Riders have the functionality to completely plan, track, pay, and manage their entire transit experience from the palm of their hand. The physical pain points that cause cognitive tax are decreasing and an enhanced rider experience is giving transit a positive rep. Mobile transit technology, such as Passport’s, is transforming the transit industry for the better. Providing users with the ability to handle the transit experience from a smartphone, as well as giving transit decision makers functionality to analyze data around their operations is ideal to improving the overall experience.

Riding transit doesn’t have to be a stressful situation. With mobile transit technology on the rise, riders can feel at ease knowing that they can completely enjoy a new city without the detriment of cognitive tax.