App to make commuting way easier

LTA is seeking developer for transport app that will include walking and cycling options

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) wants to create a transport app that will be much more than a route planner - one that will guide you from your point of origin to your final destination, including all the walking or cycling you may need to do along the way.

It is looking for a third party to partner in this ambitious venture.

The app will tell commuters which is the best sheltered route home when it rains, the smoothest route by train if they are taking with them foldable bicycles, or the easiest route if they are pushing a pram, for instance.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said in a statement: "To help meet the changing needs of our commuters... we are looking to partner with a third-party app developer to create an app that can better address the first and last legs of their commute."

The proposed app is envisioned to allow commuters to plan the best routes to their destinations by drawing on all available modes of transport - from buses and trains to walking and cycling.

It should also enable commuters to do pre-trip and en route planning, set their commuting preferences, and get information on the duration as well as fares of trips.

The authority will soon issue an invitation to industry players to submit proposals. The appointed app developer will partner LTA to create and market this app.

Asked why it made no mention of including travel by car, motorcycle or taxi - which together account for up to 40 per cent of all trips here - an LTA spokesman said: "This initiative is part of our efforts to encourage more people to travel by public transport and other active modes of commuting. There are already journey planners available for drivers."

But she added that "depending on what the industry can offer, we will not preclude the option of tra-vel by car or motorcycle".

Dr Walter Theseira, an economist at SIM University, said there are already many applications which specialise in mapping and route planning.

"The claim made here is that this app will include a far greater amount of specific information which would affect the ease of travelling the first or last mile," he said. "This would be useful because most mapping applications tend to have lower-quality information on pathways used by pedestrians and cyclists."

But Dr Theseira said that not including information for motorists would be "a notable omission, given that the purpose of a journey planner is to provide advice on all the feasible modes of reaching the destination".

In an inclusive app, "it may well be that the users will realise that public transit is a superior alternative to driving, if they could compare the two options in the journey planner directly", he said.

Christopher Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'App to make commuting way easier'. Print Edition | Subscribe