For travel innovators, timing is everything
Independent app and website developers are helping to shape how transport organisations deliver the same old product in a new way, writes JJ WORRALL
In the next few months, Transport for Ireland hopes to release one consolidated database of public transport information for third parties to harness
HOPING TO find the best way to work via public transport, he was presented with eight choices, none of which matched his usual route. With many of the choices actually recommending him to go beyond his final destination, he opted for his usual journey plan.
Dermot Daly is founder of Tapadoo, an app development company which has created the highly successful My Dublin Bus app for the iPhone. A simple application, it tells you when your next bus is due.
Most commuters with a smartphone have it or have downloaded a similar app at this stage. Even those without smartphones will be familiar with the real-time data displays at Dublin Bus stops, which do a similar job. Daly and others like him have realised that commuters want to be kept up to date with when to expect the next bus home.
“Dublin Bus has its own iPhone app,” says Daly. “But what I found was the Dublin Bus one was really full of stuff I didn’t need.” He adds that “great apps don’t do multiple things”.
The new National Transport Authority-sponsored Journey Planner service may have a hint of déjà vu for the capital’s commuters, with many already utilising the similar HitTheRoad.iewhich maps the best public transport routes when getting from A to B in Dublin.
“We think it’s great that a nationwide planner is being launched, as it allows a wide range of operators to be featured,” says Ross Shannon, co-founder of Commutable, who produced the HitTheRoad site.
“As we’re focused on a smaller geographic area at the moment, we believe we still offer the best route-planning experience for Dublin’s transport system.”
Daly and Shannon, though, both give less than enthusiastic responses to the NTA’s nascent product. The former says “it’s okay”, while Shannon notes that “initial feedback is mixed”.
The website and Android app for the Journey Planner were launched last week, with the iPhone app arriving this week. After internal testing, the Planner was launched, according to NTA director of public transport services, Ann Graham, “with the intention of getting public feedback as soon as possible”.
While Graham admits the NTA has been monitoring complaints made on public forums, she encourages people to email the authority directly using a link on the official site. There are undoubtedly glitches, however, with Graham saying this usually revolves around place names.
Graham defends the Journey Planner, stating: “There’s little things that don’t seem to make sense to the individual but it’s generally that they haven’t set their settings in the correct way, so a lot of it is about the usage of the Journey Planner rather than the data itself.”
Aside from directions, though, there are other issues. For instance, a “link to” function on the site (allowing users to send a specific route to someone else via a link) continually failed to work when tested by The Irish Times.