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Your life in their hands

First publishedin ITS International
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“A new person coming to our city can pick up their smartphone and, using the location devices, can see where they are right now and easily plan their trip,” says Abby Slovack, a spokesperson for LethBridge

Apps that put your service in the palm of the user's hand have potential to be a boon for all kinds of transport companies. Joe Dysart scrolls through his phone and assesses what's out there.

Rail, bus and taxi operators are realising significant savings by switching to ride scheduling, booking and monitoring apps that help them greatly automate their operations - while simultaneously offering their smartphone-wielding passengers the information they crave. Indeed, most of today’s transportation apps offer customers instant access to your system via mobile phone, where they can book and pay for a ride, get real-time status on their train, bus, or taxi - greatly reducing the overhead you normally pay to sell and manage rides by phone or at ticket counters. Some apps are soup-to-nuts packages for large transportation companies, which are looking for an end-to-end solution that will handle all their operational needs -including making it very easy for passengers to book via mobile phone or tablet. But other apps cater to specialised markets, including entrepreneurs looking to start Uber-style ride-hailing companies, or volunteer-based special needs transportation companies that are looking to create easy-to-use ‘claim-a-ride’ boards that drivers can access with their smartphones. No matter what your specific need, here’s a representative sampling of apps that are saving transportation companies significant costs by automating their operations while putting everything they offer in the hand of anyone who owns a smartphone…

NexTaxi by Tranware

Transportation entrepreneurs looking to start their own Uber-style taxi service may want to check out this solution. Like Uber, its an on-demand hailing app that enables ride-seekers to call a car, track the car’s arrival and communicate with the driver - all from their smartphone. Available on Android, with an IOS version coming soon, the app is free to use for ride-seekers. The makers get their money via sales of the app to taxicab drivers and fleets. Ride-seekers use the app by inputting their location, destination and ride preferences.  Plus, repeat passengers can also store and instantly recall common routes along with pick-up and drop-off locations.


Logistrics Taxi by Logistrics

Another Uber-style taxi app, Logistrics enables any entrepreneur to run a taxi service from a smartphone at a fraction of the upfront costs associated with traditional operations. The only hardware you need to get going is a smartphone or tablet. Essentially, Logistrics gives you a birds-eye view of your taxi service from your smartphone - whether that be a single car driven by you or a fleet of cars that you manage. Car dispatch can be automated via the app or you can step in and handle dispatches manually. Your drivers log in to signal availability for pick-ups. And dispatch can be set-up for a first in first out model or nearest available car model.


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Transportation providers of all sizes are seeking apps that put all of the services they offer in the hand of anyone who owns a smartphone

RideScheduler by EdgeFish

This is a great smartphone-driven app for taxi companies staffed with freelance taxi drivers who are looking to provide riders with an ‘as-available’ option. Plus, it’s also great for paratransit companies that rely on volunteers looking to drive passengers on a ‘when-I’m-available’ basis. The app enables a dispatcher to post a rider looking for transport and then allows authorised, individual drivers to claim that ride. Before accepting the ride, the driver can click on the passenger’s address so he or she can see where the pick-up and drop-off locations are. Plus, detailed turn-by-turn driving directions are included for the driver.

TripSpark by TripSpark

This is an end-to-end software solution for fixed-route and paratransit providers. Transportation companies can create optimised routes with the package, automatically generate trips and schedules as well as manage all employees and vehicles in their system. Plus, passengers can easily access and use the system via smartphone.

Abby Slovack, a spokesperson for Lethbridge Transit in Alberta, Canada, says the app makes it easy for an out-of-towner to quickly get up to speed on all the system has to offer.  “A new person coming to our city can pick up their smartphone and using the location devices can see where they are right now and easily plan their trip,” Slovack says. “You can say, for example, ‘From this location I want to go to the mall’ and it will populate the details of how to make that transit trip.”

TripSpark also integrates with Google Maps for passengers and provides real-time info on bus arrival times.


Betterez by Betterez

Rail and bus transportation companies looking to automate much of their reservations and ticketing operations will want to take a close look at Betterez.

The app enables riders to use their mobile phone to shop for a specific seat location on a train or bus and then instantly book a reservation. Smaller train operators can run their business end-to-end on Betterez’s out-of-the-box solution. And larger train operators can build custom features on the platform, or extend their legacy systems until a full migration can be achieved. Ticket counter and call centre solutions are also available with the app. Plus, transportation companies can integrate with third party booking agencies into the system through Betterez’s Facebook-like “friending” feature.


TripMaster by CTS Software

TripMaster offers a full suite of tools needed to run a small or large rail, bus or taxi operation, including scheduling, billing, and reporting as well as advanced features like mapping, auto scheduling, an MDT interface, broker imports, and an online rider portal.

Essentially, the app is designed to save transportation companies money by encouraging passengers to book by computer or smartphone - rather than draining operation resources by booking rides by phone. Clients of the app include public and private paratransit providers, NEMT agencies, taxi and limo companies, PACE/adult day programmes and livery services.

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Most transport apps offer customers instant access to your system via mobile phone. Image: Pras Boonwong | Dreamstime.com

PtMS by Automated Business Solutions

This solution is a GIS map-based paratransit and NEMT software system that supports order taking, trip editing, automated scheduling, dispatching, billing, reporting, automated appointment reminders, mobile Android devices, GPS vehicle tracking, electronic schedules and signature capture. Transportation providers, brokers and coordinators all use PtMS to streamline their bookings.



For bus and taxi transportation companies looking to optimise their routes by creating on-the-fly availability of rides based on passenger needs, Pantonium should be of interest. Essentially, the app automatically reroutes available buses and/or taxis based on customer needs at the moment - rather than forcing transportation companies to rely on predetermined fixed routes that are based on their ‘best guess’ of what needs will be. “People are beginning to think - everyone’s got access to communication now, everyone’s got access to mobile phones, they know where I am - maybe there’s a better way,” says  Des Remi, CEO, Pantonium.

The app works by computing millions of permutations of the best routes for your buses or taxis to produce the most efficient use of resources possible. It also generates continuous reports on the ongoing interaction of riders and drivers to ensure the system gets ‘smarter’ over time about how to allocate resources.


Hastus by Giro

Hastus offers a full suite of tools for automating management of bus, subway, tram and light rail transportation services.  Existing clients managing 20 - 6,500 vehicles are already using the system. Hastus also reduces passenger management costs by offering booking via website or mobile phone and integrating with IVR systems and electronic signage.


Transportation Management by Shah Software

Bus transportation providers can pick and choose from a suite of solutions offered by this package.  Features include client registration, trip reservations and scheduling, dispatching, trip billing, menu-driven built-in reports, easy ad hoc report creation, vehicle and driver tracking, vehicle maintenance and maintenance reminders, driver training and training reminders. Included is a ‘Locate My Bus’ smartphone app that passengers can use to get real-time information on the location of their bus, as well as estimated pick-up and drop-off times.

Bus drivers on the system can also use a tablet to obtain electronic manifests, log pre-trip inspections, get assigned routes and send messages to dispatch staff. Meanwhile, fleet managers receive any exception notices, and dispatch is able to view pick-ups and drop-offs with a visual indicator.


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