POSTED: 02:43 PM Thursday, October 10, 2013
BY: Maria Clark, Reporter
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority began releasing global positioning data on its buses and streetcars to the public last spring at the request of local public transit advocates and entrepreneurs who saw a golden opportunity to build apps and other online tools for travelers.
Local entrepreneur George Van Wormer aims to be one of the first to capitalize on the newly public data.
Van Wormer has spent the last year developing TransitHub, a mobile app that allows users to track the position of RTA buses and streetcars in real time. He said he came up with the concept while working as a bartender at The Columns Hotel. He wanted to use the streetcar to get to and from work but never knew when it was actually going to arrive.
"When guests would ask me if they should take the streetcar I'd send them out with to-go drinks because you can never really anticipate how long the wait will actually be," he said.
Van Wormer, who now works as a business analyst for Susco Solutions, a local software development firm, launched the TransitHub app this week for Apple iOS and Android users. The free app was designed by local graphic designer Ross Loftin and developed by WebDevrs, a New Orleans app and website developer.
TransitHub taps into GPS data to track the locations of buses and streetcars movement instead of using transit schedules provided by the RTA to estimate arrival times.
The program also sends out notifications five minutes before a bus or streetcar is expected to arrive at a stop and allows users to map out their trip and estimated travel time by route.
Van Wormer said the next step is figuring out how to turn data into dollars. TransitHub does not generate any revenue now and Van Wormer worries that including advertisements in the app will clutter the software. He hopes to implement new features next year that will help him monetize the concept.
"We wanted the tool to be helpful and offer it for free, to make it more accessible," he said. "I think this could be a step toward really opening the city for people who are overwhelmed by waiting for public transport or don't want to pay cab fees."