SunRail app on the way — from the local tech community
Consider this a case study in economics 101: When there’s an unmet need, the market will fill it.
SunRail launched May 1 with paid service starting May 19, but to the surprise of many, the commuter rail system didn’t come with an app. Carlos Carbonell, CEO of Orlando-based Echo Interaction Group, said June 25 that he got approval fromApple to publish a third-party SunRail app. The app — dubbed Orlando Transit— is expected to be available for Apple devices today, and an Android version is planned.
Carbonell said the big reason they started working on the app was because the Echo’s offices are near SunRail and employees were using it. “Everyone in the world of tech says you have a neat service and a neat website, you should have an app,” Carbonell said. “We kept waiting and waiting, and we got tired of waiting and we just built it.”
The app, which initially will only be available for Apple devices, will be free. The app also will be available in Spanish.
Features are planned to include:
Crowdsourced train delays: Users can report if a train is late and see whether other users are reporting that a particular train is late. Currently, SunRail’s own website doesn’t track that yet. Next mile feature: Shows users how to get to the station using public of private transportation, including Lynx, Lymmo, Uber, Mears and bike sharing. Walking distance: See what’s within walking distance of a station once you’re there. Florida Hospital helped pay for the costs to develop the app. The app also is offering free banner ads to nonprofits in the meantime.
As far as monetizing the app, the eventual plans would call for businesses advertising on the app, if the user base gets high enough.
So will the app be a bridge until SunRail eventually comes out with their own system? No, Carbonell said. In markets like San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (or BART) rail system has more than 100 third-party apps, and they’re all featured on the BART site.
“The whole point again with public transportation is it’s public,” Carbonell said. “I would hope they would be open to anyone developing apps.”
Carbonell said he’s hoping the Florida Department of Transportation eventually opens up the data for SunRail that would allow third party apps to track trains real-time.