One of the things I love most about living in New Orleans is the sense of community. There is such a strong bond between our fellow citizens, neighbors, and community leaders that other cities cannot reproduce. And the only expectation you have for partaking in all of the benefits of being a citizen of New Orleans is that you will give something back. Big or small, you will make a contribution back to a city that gives you so much.
With this in mind, when I founded Apptitude, in our business plans I included the requirement that we would develop one pro bono project per year, for free, for an organization or civic institution that is looking to use technology to improve life for the citizens of New Orleans.
After discussing my search for a worthwhile project with a few friends, I was soon introduced to Rachel Heiligman, an ambitious and noble New Orleanian with an impressive background in city planning and management. Her organization, Transport for NOLA, seeks to give New Orleans the world-class mass transit system that it deserves. Thanks to their work with the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, NOLA is on the verge of having a state-of-the-art mass transit technology platform that will rival those in many larger cities.
After meeting with Rachel, it was clear that Transport for NOLA and Apptitude were a perfect match, and they were selected as our first pro bono community project. As a daily rider on the 11, I can appreciate firsthand what a good realtime GPS-based mass transit app could do for the citizens of New Orleans. I also happen to have a good bit of experience in that area as well, having developed Rice University’s iPhone app, which features a realtime map of all campus buses, accurate down to the second.
There’s also another looming reason to make this app for New Orleans right now. In iOS 6, Apple is introducing their own Maps app to replace the previous Google-developed Maps app. While it is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, one huge feature that is missing is mass transit. Having used the old version to just barely catch the subway in New York many times last year, I know this feature is going to be one iOS users will sorely miss.
Fortunately we have a solution for New Orleans, and thanks to Transport for NOLA and RTA, the data is already live and publicly available through an API. So get ready. Soon you’ll be able to find that bus or that streetcar by pulling out your iPhone and opening up the Ride app.
It’s going to rock.