iTrans: native SEPTA regional rail iOS app has 'three killer features' that sets it apart - Technical.ly Philly

Dec. 29, 2011 11:00 am

iTrans: native SEPTA regional rail iOS app has ‘three killer features’ that sets it apart

iTrans SEPTA is the localized regional rail-specific version of a popular native mass transit app with, as Brooklyn web developer Adam Ernst describes it, “three killer features: offline access, live departure info, and push alerts.” Offline access: “Since schedules are stored right on your device, you can pull up the times within a couple seconds […]

iTrans SEPTA is the localized regional rail-specific version of a popular native mass transit app with, as Brooklyn web developer Adam Ernst describes it, “three killer features: offline access, live departure info, and push alerts.”

  • Offline access: “Since schedules are stored right on your device, you can pull up the times within a couple seconds at most, no matter how spotty your cell connection,” he said.
  • Live departure info: This “is incredibly useful for checking your train while you walk to the station. Right on the timetable view, iTrans shows you if each train is on time or late and how late it is,” he said.
  • Push alerts: “You can just set an alert for your train line and get instant push alerts whenever there’s a disruption announced by SEPTA. You can even set alerts for individual trains: so if you usually take the 5:45 train from Market East, tap a switch and we’ll send you a push alert whenever it’s delayed on the days you choose,” he said.

The app costs $3.99 in the app store. Live departure info and push alerts are an additional 99 cents per month, said Ernst, since they “require server-side resources that I have to maintain.”

Wisconsin-bred, Ernst, 23, is a Princeton computer science graduate who, he says, “has been coding on iPhone since the day it was allowed. iTrans was one of the original 500 apps on the app store.”

Though he now lives in Brooklyn, Ernst has his fair share of experience riding SEPTA’s regional rail, which he uses with his college girlfriend who now lives in Chestnut Hill.

“It’s a great service: clean and reliable, and you can get right into the heart of the city,” he said. “And with the price of gas these days, it’s almost cheaper to take the train than drive — and it’s certainly cheaper when you throw in parking.”

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Ernst has made iTrans his full-time job, creating versions for New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Los Angeles, with plans for other New York-area transit systems, “and hopefully someday a SEPTA app that includes the subways, buses, and trolleys,” he adds.

With experience with so many markets, Technically Philly asked Ernst to evaluate how SEPTA is doing in its efforts to be more open with its data:

“SEPTA’s data is in great shape, and they’ve been doing amazing work releasing real-time information — like train and bus location and delay info — through clean, usable APIs,” he said. “They’re ahead of many other transit agencies in this department, which is incredibly refreshing.”

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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. In that capacity, he is a co-organizer of Philly Tech Week, Baltimore Innovation Week, Delaware Innovation Week and other events that bring smart people together. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here and curates a personal monthly newsletter of ideas and links here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

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