June 17, 2024

App City: Commuter Reports From, Well, Commuters


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Among smartphone apps for New Yorkers, the most longed for remains one that will get you to work on time. So it’s probably not surprising that the city is experiencing a boom in transit apps, with dozens of options including beginner-level offerings that give basic directions and more advanced ones, like Exit Strategy, which counsels riders on which subway car will get them closest to the most convenient exit. The city government and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are encouraging this trend by providing public data and running app contests.

Roadify, which aims to use the wisdom of the crowd to inform drivers and transit riders, recently won the grand prize in the city’s Big Apps 2.0 competition. It was originally a text-messaging group that let drivers in Park Slope, Brooklyn, announce when they were leaving a parking spot. Last year, several developers expanded on that idea, creating an app to swap information about driving and public transportation. Roadify also includes subway and bus timetables and scheduled service changes, and the developers are gradually adding more ways for users to share information about their commutes. An Android version is in the works.

It is easy to see how Roadify could be useful. But it is the kind of service that gets better as more people sign up, and it has not reached critical mass. It is not uncommon to click on, say, the E train at Queens Plaza, only to find an update saying the station is crowded — from six hours earlier. There is also some development work to be done: More than 20 bus lines have yet to be entered into the database, meaning that if you live in many parts of Queens, you’re out of luck. And the subway information is arranged by line, not by station. Trying to decide which train to take from Times Square? You have to check each line individually. Roadify is also largely nonfunctional underground, a serious shortcoming for something you want to use on the subway.

In the future, there may be a way for New Yorkers to exchange useful information about their commutes in real time. Roadify may even end up being that app. But not yet. JOSHUA BRUSTEIN

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=aa38bce4fe423249af51b689deea5e71

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