In about a month, Apple will unveil its latest iPhone, a smaller iPad and iOS 6, the latest iteration of its popular operating system. A few months ago, when the tech giant unveiled the contours of its new operating system, we learned that transit directions had been eliminated from Apple’s native Maps app. Although I wasn’t a fan of it, some developers argued that Apple’s new API would actually enable the creative among us to develop better transit interfaces. Still, native directions that didn’t require a user to seek out another app or add-on struck me as more conducive to encouraging transit. It is a debate with no right answer.
Meanwhile, the development has not sat idly by as time has ticked on. Some are working on apps that use the Apple Maps interface to overlay transit information on the new Maps app while others are working on their own standalone programs. Today, I want to talk about one of those standalone development efforts as OpenPlans, the organization that developed Streetsblog, looks to Kickstarter to wrap up a $25,000 fundraising effort.
The developers at OpenPlans started working on OpenTripPlanner Mobile when news of Apple’s decision to drop transit directions came out, and they want to create something that isn’t just a hyperlocal app for people in one city or another. They’re using all available GTFS data from transit agencies throughout the country, and they’re incorporating that with bike routes and walking directions to create a more accurate portrayal of how Americans use transit.
The kicker though for this killer app is their funding approach. OpenPlans has engaged in a month-long effort to fund the app via a Kickstarter proposal, and as of this writing, they have 39 hours left to raise $4,291. As OpenPlans say on its project page, “The more funds we raise the more features and data coverage we’ll be able to add.”
So it’s not impossible for the organization to raise the the final 20 percent it needs to see the project fully funded, but it won’t be easy. If you have a few spare bucks, consider making a pledge. If 400 of you gave $10 each — or the cost of around five subway rides — iOS users will get to enjoy a fully functional urban transportation app.
Over the years, I’ve long argued for a comprehensive, open approach for transit data. As American society grows ever more mobile and technologically-minded, access to information has become an urban currency. We grow impatient when we can’t find out what’s wrong with our train, where the next one is or how to get somewhere new or unfamiliar. Such information makes transit more rider-friendly and encourages use. Right now, apps are the wave of the information future, and this one is a particularly worthwhile project. So kick a few buck its way. Finding your way around can get only easier.