Going from one place to another in Mexico city is nowadays much more challenging than it should be. The wide variety of transport providers, many of which don’t even have designated stops and scheduled routes and the lack of a centralized source of all the information on the routes available make the usage of public transport in Mexico city a very challenging and sometimes even dangerous task.
There are over 950 different transport routes from various transport providers (e.g. RTP, Metrobus, Microbus, Metro) available in the capital of Mexico. An app that could provide fast and feasible routes to the inhabitants would make more people use the public transport instead of their personal cars or taxis. This would reduce the amount of traffic jams on the streets as well as decrease the level of pollution in Mexico city.
What it does
Given your destination and transport preferences, the SmartPaths provides you with fast multi-modal transport routes. The routes are displayed on a map and provide step by step instructions to get to your final destination. An estimated time of travel prediction is also generated for each of the routes.
The routes generated by Smartpaths combine information from ALL available public transport systems and routes in Mexico City (RTP, Metro, Metrobus, Microbus, Combis, RTP, Trolebus, Suburbano, Eco-Bici, Tren Ligero).
How we built it
Smartpaths was built at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). The project was leaded by Dr Osvaldo Cairó Battistutti, full time lecturer of the institute. The university provided resources and facilities for the development of the project and currently hosts the multi-modal routing services.
The app was developed using Apple software development kit, Mexico City´s public transport GTFS, Microbuses open data, data from Eco-Bici and official logos of Mexico City´s public transport. The back end uses SQL server and IIS web services.
The multi-modal route algorithm uses heuristic model to calculate the routes. A number of papers were published during the design and implementation of this algorithm as result of the research made at ITAM:
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JKM-02-2015-0053 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877050914011089 http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JKM-02-2015-0053 http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/91968531/heuristic-unscheduled-public-transport-navigation-system
Challenges we ran into
Development of this app started before the GTFS files of Mexico City public transport were published, therefore a great deal of effort was spent in order to manually gather all information of public transports in the city. Also the fact that transports in Mexico City have no schedule meant we had to develop an algorithm that would be able to generate fast routes and travel time predictions based on heuristics.
There is a wide variety of public transport service providers in Mexico City. Combining more than 950 transport routes in order to generate fast and feasible multimodal transport routes was a very challenging task, measuring transit times, and speed of each transport was necessary to build fast and feasible multimodal routes.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The fact that the app can calculate multi-modal routes using all the transports available in the city in a very short time and moreover, can provide an estimated time of travel when there are no time schedules at all is the main accomplishment we are proud of.
We are also proud of having over 15,000 downloads in the app store.
What we learned
Innovative app development must be done fast. At the time SmartPaths development started, there were no competitors in the market. Not even Google maps provided transport navigation for Mexico City. However, by the time the app was finished the market already had some strong competitors.
What's is new in SmartPaths
For this competition, we are including the Microbuses’ data in the app (over 500 new transport routes). This inclusion will make this app the most complete multi-modal transport navigation system in Mexico City.
Microbus is the transport that covers most of the city, it is the most commonly used mean of transport and has the least amount of information available on it, as it´s operated by various independent providers.
What's next for SmartPaths
The app is very flexible and was designed in a way, that new transports and cities could be later added easily. In the future, we want to create an open platform, where transport providers could upload their transports’ databases, which would immediately be available to general public. For that, the transport service providers would be able to get statistics of the usage of their transportation network.