Smart phone app to support the public transport revolution

24 Mar 2014

Researchers at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) are developing a smart phone app aimed at taking the frustration out of travelling on public transport and ultimately improving bus and train services.

Researchers at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) are developing a smart phone app aimed at taking the frustration out of travelling on public transport and ultimately improving bus and train services.

The app, known as RateIT, will allow passengers to warn each other of problems in real time, and operators to adjust services in order to overcome difficulties and to meet varying passenger requirements.

"RateIT will allow passengers to exchange information about issues such as crowding, comfort and safety," said Dr Claudine Moutou. "Through the app, travellers can warn each other that a particular bus is full, there are rowdy students on board or the air conditioning has failed."

"Importantly, transport operators will be linked into the system and will be able respond to passenger needs in real time," added Dr Moutou who is a lecturer in the University of Sydney Business School's ITLS.

"For example, using information supplied by passengers via RateIT, a bus operator can respond to delays on the rail network, gauge the need for additional services and inform travellers accordingly," she said. "It's a win for the operators and it's a win for passengers."

The researchers say that their project is crucial in an environment where public transport operators are under pressure to provide better services to more people for less money.

"To make public transport a traveller's first choice, we need to know much more about the experience from their point of view," said Dr Moutou. "Data collected in the RateIT app will help us to answer important questions about passenger expectations and how long they will tolerate a less than perfect service."

The development of the app is being supported by the University of Sydney's Henry Halloran Trust, which was established to "promote scholarship, innovation and research in town planning, urban development and land management". The Trust was established through the generous gift of Warren Halloran.

Professors Judy Kay and Robert Kummerfeld, both experts in computer-human interaction in the School of Information Technologies, will also be working on the app together with a number of IT students.

They expect to trial RateIT towards the end of the year on buses belonging to the well established Sydney based operator, Forest Coach Lines.

"Our project combines research, technology and operational knowledge in an effort to get communities more engaged in the quality of their transport services and tell us how to make them better," concluded Dr Moutou.