StopFinder Helps You On Your Commute
One of the great topics of discussion that came out of Metronauts Transit Camp this past Saturday was the integration of different modes of transportation for commuters. Right now, there is no central place a commuter can visit to find out about transit schedules, parking fares, and bike paths, all intersecting with each other.
StopFinder is setting out to change all that. Using Google Maps technology, StopFinder is making it easier to access information about public transit and parking in the GTA, and most importantly, making it easier for commuters to make their travels around the city as efficient as possible.
I recently had the chance to chat to Michael DiBernardo, one of the founders of StopFinder, about the impetus to create the site and the future goals and plans for the business.
What is StopFinder? What was the impetus that made you want to create it?
StopFinder is a website that shows you what options you have for getting to a Toronto destination. It finds the TTC transit stops and the closest, cheapest parking lots around your point of interest in a handful of seconds.
I personally joined the StopFinder project because I'd lived on the west coast for three years, and when I returned to Toronto, I found that it was difficult for me to figure out how to get anywhere. A couple of friends and I decided that we could probably do a few simple things that would improve this situation, and so we did it. We created it because it was something that we felt we needed ourselves.
How do you think that this service can help ease transportation in the GTA? What is the real value of StopFinder to both drivers and transit riders?
I can think of three specific ways in which StopFinder can help increase the ease of mobility in the GTA.
First, let's say you're a driver, and you refuse to use other methods of transportation. Parking is becoming scarce as lots are destroyed to make room for construction. A recent article in Time Magazine reported that 45% of drivers in a gridlocked area in New York said that they were on the road because they were looking for a parking spot (link to article).
Up until now, it wasn't easy to find Toronto parking lots on the web, so most people probably didn't find that it was worth it to do their homework before leaving the house. However, you can find a lot with StopFinder in less than 30 seconds. We've made it much easier to do your homework. If you know exactly where you're going to park, you won't end up milling about when you arrive. Of course, there's always the chance that a lot might be full — but as less visible parking lots sign up with StopFinder to take advantage of our free listings, we think we can shift capacity so that more spots are utilized in less time overall.
Second, if you're strictly a transit user, you're probably aware that your options for planning a trip on the TTC are limited. StopFinder isn't a full-fledged route-planning tool. It isn't as powerful as something like Google Transit Maps. But, it does map the transit information that the TTC website provides in an intuitive fashion around your point of interest, thus making the TTC's services easier to use.
Finally, let's say you're not restricted to one method of transportation. Many people in Toronto own cars but are also willing to take transit. My suspicion is that many people stick to one method of transport — for example, they'll drive everywhere — simply because it takes too long to figure out how good or bad the alternative is. StopFinder reduces the effort required to make this comparison. I've literally used StopFinder as I'm running out the door, balancing my laptop on one palm as I type in my destination. If we make it easier for people to decide between transit and driving, perhaps they'll choose the better way more often.
What can we expect from StopFinder in the future? How can the community help in making it a more valuable resource?
We built StopFinder to be as simple as we could possibly make it. We did this so that people would use it, and tell us what they would like to see.
We certainly have some ideas of our own that we're working on right now -- adding many more lots, possibly adding street parking, and allowing mobile access to the site. But our plan is really to prioritize the features that the community requests.
You can help out by using StopFinder and telling us what you like and don't like about it. We would also love it if people would inform us about parking lot location rates or transit stops that we're missing. Finally, we've made it possible for other developers to use StopFinder to build their own applications, and we're excited to see how people take advantage of this.