Foursquare Clique Has A Ticket To Ride On The BART

Odd that Foursquare, the Location Based Social Network with it roots in Manhattan should strike its first transit deal with the Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco versus the New York Subway system. Is the new location-based social network attracting a narrow demographic of West Coast clique-ish gamers?

Naveen Selvadurai and Dennis Crowley, the co-founders of Foursquare are headquartered in NYC. In August, when Foursquare struck a deal with 8coupons a location-based coupon clipping service for mobile phones - again the focus for Foursquare's coverage was Manhattan.

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When I first reported on Foursquare back in July, I named it one of the Top Ten Location-Based Mobile Social Networks, but the POLL in the same blog only gave Foursquare a 6% popularity rating (losing out to BrightKite with 65% of the votes).

However, Foursquare, like Twitter I believe is creating a groundswell of interest with an inside group of early adopters. While I remember hearing about Twitter three years ago, it took me almost two full years to join the ranks. I think Foursquare's base is scaling similarly (see my blog, "Could the Fiefdom of Foursquare  Become The New Twittersphere?"). Like other location-based social networks, a younger demographic will conduct the beta-testing before it actually goes mainstream. The appeal of Foursquare differing from the pack, however is its game-like components.

San Francisco is a likely geographic target market to attract the tech-savvy digerati who travel by public transit - or more importantly can convince others to do so! As that is the point of this BART deal. In their formal press release the Bay Area Rapid Transit announced they were proud to be "the first transit agency to partner with the location-based mobile network Foursquare, with the goal of encouraging public transit use."

As prospective Foursquare users check in from different venues (restaurants, theaters), they earn badges and points for conducting different activities, like a "gym rat" badge if you check in 10 times at at work-out center during a 30-day period.

As part and parcel of Foursquare's partnership with BART, train riders can BART badgeBART badgeearn a Bart-themed badge that can be unlocked as they use the train service throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

BART will then reward random riders who have logged Foursquare check-ins at BART stations $25 promotional tickets each month for the next three months, starting in November.

"A lot of BART riders are already having fun with this game," said Timothy Moore, BART website manager. "We hope this partnership will encourage them to check out different stations and neighborhoods, and will show people who aren't already BART riders some of the great things to do that are easy to get to on transit."

The timing for a San Francisco partnership of this type made a lot of sense when I realized that Dennis CrowleyDennis CrowleyCrowley tied the announcement of the BART deal to the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, October 22.

"We're excited about the potential for Foursquare to influence people's actions and decisions beyond things like entertainment, into broader areas, like taking public transit or getting involved in their communities," said Crowley.

I suspect if the Web 2.0 conference was held in Manhattan, perhaps the NY Subway system would have had a shot at being that "ticket to ride."