One of the defining characteristics of this past cycle of multifamily construction has been the amenities race. As renting has experienced a surge in the past few years, a polite front desk attendant, clean apartments, and granite counters weren’t enough to satisfy Class A renters. It seems that, now, every new community is trying to outdo the competition on the next block. To compete, they're including rooftop infinity pools, private lounges with flat-screen TVs, party rooms with gourmet-style kitchens, and dog agility parks.
But one simple but very useful amenity might prove to be just as effective in luring renters as the pricey state-of-the-art features.
TransitScreen, which launched three years ago as a Software-as-a-Service company, taps into local transportation data systems for quick-access information about transit options. A property manager pays a monthly fee, installs a television in a prime location in the community (such as the lobby), and receives a device from TransitScreen that’s similar to an Apple TV or Roku streaming product.
The device displays all the nearby transit times for local bus stops, subways, and trains. In the past three years, it’s also adapted to changing cities by including modules for bike sharing, car sharing, and ride -sharing, listing the number of bikes available, number of Zipcars nearby, and number of Uber drivers circling the block. Property managers can log in to their account online and upload special travel advisories as needed.
Most recently, TransitScreen added another feature: customized community messages. When one of its customers needed to find an easy way to display messages about Washington, D.C.’s ongoing Metro Safe-Track schedule or holiday hours for the leasing office, TransitScreen quickly adapted a module to show the information.
“We’re the information piece that’s linking urbanization and the mobility revolution,” says Ryan Croft, co-founder of TransitScreen. “We saw two macrotrends converging very quickly: People want to live in cities. Millennials are more interested in being in a place that’s walkable and bikeable. The second side is the urban mobility revolution. It’s bike share, car share, Uber and Lyft, and mass transit.”
Croft co-founded TransitScreen with Matt Caywood. The duo combines a wealth of experience in the travel and technology sectors. Croft worked in enterprise software and also owned a travel agency where he’d help customers plan trips around the world. There, he experienced firsthand how hard it was to get around a major city without easy transportation information (and lack of knowledge of the local language). Caywood has an undergrad degree in computer science from Harvard and a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California–San Francisco, where he studied how the brain communicates with digital screens.
TransitScreen started out in the Mobility Lab incubator in Arlington, Va., which is dedicated to fostering new ideas for better transportation. Since then, the firm has expanded into 35 cities in the U.S., plus Toronto, London, and Paris. The service is currently active in 1,200 commercial and multifamily buildings, with companies like Greystar, AvalonBay, Equity Residential, Kettler, and JBG Cos. all using its products.