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KickStarter project OpenTripPlanner Mobile wants to put mass transit directions back on iOS 6

@SamShankman

Aug 11, 2012 3:18 am

Skift Take

OpenTripPlanner Mobile’s value lies not in providing transit planning on iOS 6, but in showing the importance of open data and how it fuels sustainable and innovative transportation projects.

— Samantha Shankman

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OpenTripPlanner Mobile wants to integrate walking, mass transit, bike sharing, and car sharing on an open source platform for iOS 6 that cities and individuals can help design. The app was created by a non-profit technology organization, OpenPlans, and will be raising contributions on Kickstarter until August 18.

Why iPhone users need for a new transportation planner

When the Apple iOS 6 comes out this fall, Google Maps will no longer be on it. Apple is replacing the app and the new Apple version will include walking and driving directions, but no mass transit planning. Apple will instead suggest third-party apps for further directions.

Biking directions were never available on the Google app and won’t be added on the new app — although it’d be a smart addition given the changing landscape of cities.

This is where OpenPlans saw an opportunity to take three years worth of work on their open source trip-planning engine, OpenTripPlanner, and develop it into a mobile application. OpenPlans goes one step further than most transportation planners by integrating bike-share options along side public transportation and walking directions.

OpenPlans’ focus on open source information

OpenPlans is a non-profit organization that believes cities around the world are trying to solve the same problems, and that quicker, more efficient improvements would be made if all countries could contribute to a global project.

They’ve taken the open data that transit agencies make available and created a platform for anyone from businesses to individual designers to collaborate on. OpenPlans thinks the best way for the public to benefit from this information is through an iPhone app.

OpenPlans put the idea for OpenTripPlanner Mobile on Kickstarter as a way to earn money for the app development, but were surprised to find an unexpected source of support, as well as a platform for sharing their organization’s purpose. Kevin Webb, who co-directs OpenPlans’ transportation technologies, says that Kickstarter has given them a way to connect with new followers and build a larger community.

Making transportation data available for the public

In the U.S., about 85% of people who take transit trips are within a city that provides open transit data. This means the vast majority of major metro areas make data like train schedules and busing routes available for public use.

OpenPlans hopes to demonstrate the value of making this data available to the public. Some transit agencies don’t publicly release their information because they don’t have it, while others are nervous about releasing it to outside parties and unsure how technology will affect its distribution.

Many agencies will share their information with a single company such as Google. However, the public loses access to it when Google no longer provides the information – such as when it’s taken off iOS 6.

The progression from open data to a trip planner

The original OpenTripPlanner web app was thought up by Portland’s transportation authority, Tri-Met, who wanted a tool for transportation planning in their own city and realized they could work more efficiently by collaborating with other cities. Now companies and individual developers around the world in North America, Europe, Australia, and Israel are building and adding on to the project.

Tri-Met’s trip planning site is a good example of how OpenPlans’ mobile app would work, although the iPhone app would feature a better design and UI for a smaller screen.

Additional features on OpenTripPlanner Mobile

Users of the mobile application will be able to get directions combining walking, biking, and mass transportation. They will also be able to alter their biking route depending on their preference for the quickest, flattest, or safest trip.

The service doesn’t currently provide driving directions, but plans on adding them in the future, along with local car share programs. For example, if you were using the app in Washington, D.C., it would direct you where to take the metro to pick up a share car from car2go, where to drive it, and where to drop it off.

OpenPlans has one week left to reach its goal of $25,000 on KickStarter, but they will continue working on the app even if they don’t reach their goal.

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