Rocket Radar

Rocket Radar is the new must-have TTC iPhone app

Rocket Radar just launched on the iTunes store last night, cementing itself as a new must-have iPhone app for Toronto transit riders. Created by Interaction Designer (and former blogTO contributor) Adam Schwabe, the app provides users up to the minute data when the next streetcar will arrive at their stop. To pull this off, it makes use of the open data made available through the TTC Real Time Next Vehicle Arrival (NVAS) feed.

Having had a chance to play with Rocket Radar only briefly, I'm already smitten. The first thing that won me over is the interface. It's fun to look at and simple to use with scroll wheels that easily allow me to select my streetcar route, direction and stop location.

And the best part is not only does it tell me when the next streetcar will arrive, but it also gives time estimates for up to the next four additional streetcars. This is handy info to know especially during these cold winter months. I'll use it to plan my departure times and to decide whether it's essential to cram into the packed streetcar or wait for the one just four minutes away.

Currently the app costs $1.99 which is less than a one way fare and well worth it given its utility.

Here's my brief Q&A with the app's creator Adam Schwabe.

Why did you decide to create this?

Ever since Apple announced third party apps for the iPhone I'd been dreaming of creating an app that just answered one question - "Where the hell is my streetcar?" The inspiration came from watching people teeter off the curb, or right out into the road just to try and get a glimpse of the next streetcar coming over the horizon.

How long have you been working on it?

It's been about 2 months from initial sketches to completion. I've been blessed by a super capable team of collaborators on the design and development fronts.

Have you had any contact with the TTC or City about this?

I've met the Toronto Open Data guys, who are both really awesome and keen to get more data out to developers, and they've been really excited to see what I've been working on. I haven't heard from the TTC yet directly, but I'm sure I will at some point.

How is this different than other TTC apps?

There's a few TTC apps for the iPhone already out there, but they all seem to be trying to do everything, and anything related to transit. Rocket Radar is deliberately limited in its functionality; When it's -20 outside, you don't want to be fumbling through menus and controls just to find out when the next streetcar is arriving. Just launch the app, and you're done.

Any plans to create the app for other devices/platforms?

There's been a couple requests to have the app developed on Android, and I'm definitely interested in expanding to other platforms. We'll see once things calm down a bit in the New Year.

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