An app to end the transport woes

22 November 2013
<b>On the go</b>: A large portion of Cape Town's population relies solely on public transport.
On the go: A large portion of Cape Town's population relies solely on public transport.

No commuter is a stranger to the havoc wreaked by last-minute changes on public transport schedules - which is why the free FindMyWay app (launched for smartphones last month) might find itself high up on the popularity charts.

Developed by UCT information systems alumni Devin de Vries and Chris Kind, FindMyWay condenses information about every mode of public transport in six major South African cities into one mahala mobile application.

If you need to plan a journey on a Golden Arrow bus from Rondebosch to Mitchell's Plain tomorrow afternoon, for instance, a quick input of the trip's details into the app will generate possible routes, departure times, and even the hole it will make in your pocket. De Vries hopes it will ease the burden on commuters.

Jammie Shuttle, Metrorail, Golden Arrow, the City Sightseeing bus, the Robben Island Ferry, they're all there; and if you go to Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London or Pretoria, you can check transport in those cities, too.

"The current version is designed as single-modal, meaning I can check [routes] on Jammie Shuttle, or on Metrorail, or Golden Arrow. The next version that's coming out - which is still a little way away, because we obviously have to redesign the apps to work in such a manner - it will be an 'A to B' service, much like how Google says 'walk here', or, if you want to go to China, swim across the Yellow Sea." The FindMyWay system also links to the screens that you see around UCT's campus, which are linked to a real-time system, but at present, often display pre-determined schedules, says de Vries.

"The app is free to download," de Vries emphasises. I don't see a reason for that to ever change. The goal of this is to make public transport information easily accessible to everyone. You shouldn't need to look in one place for one set of information and look in another place for another set of information.

"This was our dream from when we were students. This was the problem we wanted to solve. Regardless of whether we can or can't make money off this, we want this to happen."

He adds: "At the end of the day, if you improve public transport, you allow urban planning to evolve in a completely different fashion, because it must take cogniscance of the fact that public transport will begin to burgeon with time."

During its development stage, the app received support from major role players in the public sector.

"Our work was also presented to [Western Cape Premier] Helen Zille who backed what we were doing and linked us to MEC for Transport Robin Carlisle, and he also helped us make connections with the various people. Since then, we've also been running the Whereismytransport system for UCT, which does a range of things, from tracking vehicles to monitoring driver behaviour, and allows the transport providers to organise schedules."

Story by Yusuf Omar. Image by Michael Hammond.

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