Local entrepreneurs develop smart phone apps to ease Sudbury's daily commute
If Sudbury transit user Assumpta Selva had a way to find out real-time bus information, and an easier way to figure out the routes right at her fingertips, she would probably rely on public transportation for more than just work.
Selva, a young professional who uses Sudbury’s bus system daily, said she has only used the city transit website once to plan her daily commute.
On most major cities' public transit websites, it is already possible to obtain route information by indicating where you're travelling from and where you want to go. Sudbury Transit's website provides riders with less-than-adequate resources, making their website fairly user unfriendly, especially on a mobile device, Selva said.
That's where Steeve St. Fleur dials into the picture. He is one of several local entrepreneurs who have taken on this navigational task and developed smartphone applications to ease Sudbury's daily commute.
He created the app, Sudbury Transit especially for transit users. A fourth-year computer science student at Laurentian University, St. Fleur's app has almost 5,000 downloads, with more than half of those being active users (including a local transit bus driver).
St. Fleur said creating an accessible app that would improve someone's life day to day was more gratifying for him than the usual homework assignment he was getting in class. So, he put his summer vacation on hold to do just that — create something that made life easier for others.
"Creating that app I was able to apply what I learned in school to see what I and other people could use it for in life; and it was more fun to learn that way than just books and homework", St. Fleur said. "(And) using the city’s website was a pain, especially on a mobile device."
The sole creator, St. Fleur launched his app almost two years ago. As a self-taught developer, he said recreating the app now would take a quarter of the time it took to develop it then. From the prototype, to its current state, St. Fleur has made many updates — smoothing out all the bugs, and developing it further.
From a simple map interface, to one that now includes key features like bus times, weekly schedules and bus stop maps, the app has come a long way. Sudbury Transit even allows you to plug in and save your favourite routes, saving you time planning your daily trip. To top it off, the app is a free download on the Google Play store.
But St. Fleur is not the only Sudburian trying to improve the transit use experience in the city.
WerzMyBus is a multiplatform transit app created by the husband-and-wife duo of Hema Khairajani and Pradish Shivprasad, who run Khairajani Solutions, an IT solutions company for small businesses in Sudbury.
They created the app in response to a simple problem: getting home from the bar. After noticing the obvious challenge in navigating the system, the couple realized there must be an easier way.
The couple then decided the app should be able to show you all available bus stops around you, despite your knowledge of the area. They each took charge of an operating system — Hema with Android and Pradish on iOS — working simultaneously in order to create an app that would be seamless and uniform on both platforms.
The biggest challenge the couple faced was getting the GPS co-ordinates and mapping out the Greater Sudbury areas. The two decided to take on the task themselves and went around the city to every bus stop and mapped the co-ordinates manually. Khairajani and Shivprasad, accompanied by their toddler, have marked out 1,368 stops including the areas of Chelmsford, Lively, Garson, Coniston, Capreol and Hanmer. A handy addition is the reminder option which allows users to have a push notification for when their bus is set to arrive.
"That was one key feature we wanted to work out because otherwise everyone's always going back into the app to check when the bus is coming, and we thought, there should be a reminder for that," Shivprasad said.
WerzMyBus is free to download on the Google Play Store and on iTunes.
The City of Sudbury Transit had mentioned a partnership between Sudbury Transit routes and Google Transit Trip Planner back in March 2014, which would allow users to use Google Maps to map out their Point A to Point B route using local transit. However, that release has yet to happen.
For now, Sudbury Transit and WerzMyBus are shaping up to be welcome mobile alternatives.
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