I am a commuter who lives in Hoboken, NJ and use PATH and MTA everyday to commute to work. After missing my train by a few seconds on multiple occasions, I spent countless minutes waiting for the next train to arrive. I always wished I had a 2 minute warning so I can rush and catch the train or slow down, grab my morning coffee, knowing that I can catch my next train. After doing some research for a suitable app, I realized that there's nothing in the market that eliminates the need for users to interact with an app and distract the user. Most of the apps are built for one-off transit use and not targeting the daily transit commuter. The challenge I found was that these apps required me to constantly unlock my phone, open the app, and type the departure and destination station to view the departure times. This required a conscious effort and was too distracting to do while walking to the stop. In fact, I once had a close call with an oncoming car when I was typing the departure station name and was too busy to look up at the Do Not Cross sign. That day, I knew that there had to be a better solution to this problem. I knew that I was one of millions of commuters who was facing this challenge. I built and launched a pilot app to test out the technology. I didn't tell anyone (including my mother) about it because I was too embarrassed with how it looked. Within two months to being on the Apple App Store, I noticed that I had over 1000 downloads.
The evidence was overwhelming. Daily mass transit commuting adds unpredictability and frustration to my daily schedule as well as millions of other commuters. Information related to my commute presented at the appropriate time, where a minute could save half an hour, and presented in the appropriate method, which doesn't require a conscious query for the same route traveled everyday , would improve my quality of life, as well as those other commuters. This app was created to solve a problem I thought wasn't being properly addressed: How to effortlessly present daily commuters with real-time information about their public transportation. This app eliminates the need for the user to unlock the phone, open an app, and repeatedly enter their departure and destination information for the same trip they take everyday.
Taking all this into consideration to build Dash! is when I knew that I am solving a problem, not just for myself, but also for many of my fellow commuters. I have been working on this app for 3 years and I am so proud of how far along the app has come. Today, it's used by thousands of the users across the US and I constantly receive complements and suggestions to improve the app.
How it works
Dash! is a unique travel experience providing real time alerts for the everyday commuter. Minimize your frustrations by being ahead of schedule and reducing time spent on a train platform or bus stop. Dash! requires the user to enter and save their departure and destination station once then the app will provide daily automated departure alerts as you approach your nearest station or stop. These real-time train and bus statuses will help in getting to any of your destinations easier. With the suggested routes, this app provides the traveling necessity for a transit app. This app also provides information on any delays and transportation reroutes. In addition to the various APIs stated below, Dash! also integrates with google transit api for iconography
Challenges I ran into
Ran in a quite a few challenges getting the app off the ground and then getting it into the hands of commuters. Some of these challenges include: 1) Incorporating continuous feedback from users to improve the user experience to make the app as simple as possible 2) Getting Dash! discovered by the commuters and differentiating it against many other credible transit apps 3) Being able to explain the problem Dash! is solving in the simplest terms
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
As a team, one of the proudest moment was when one of our user emailed us a story of how Dash! helped them get to their interview on-time as MTA was sorting out some signal issues with certain subway lines. In addition, I am proud how far the app has come from its inception in terms of the user experience, user interface and backend technology. Being able to reach thousands of commuters a surreal feeling.
What I learned
I've learnt quite a few things during the evolution process of Dash! Some of these include: 1) The best idea for an app is when you are able to solve a real-world problem and it starts with a problem that you personally face 2) It is paramount to keep the user interface as simple as possible to keep a low entry barrier for users. This means minimizing the number of clicks or the time the user needs to spend to use the app 3) It is important to develop a personal relationship with as many users as possible in order to receive continuous feedback
What's next for Dash!
Dash! currently serves 9 major cities in the US and only available on the iOS platform. We are working tirelessly to build an app for Android as well increase the cities where Dash! will be supported around US.