Stick it to ‘em

By: Amie Hickland


A new app has the potential to change the ticketing landscape of rural and regional NSW

Stick it to ‘em
Transportme app creator Nigel Tooth

New South Wales operators who are ‘out in the sticks’ now have access to ticketing technology, similar to that used by their metro counterparts.

Transportme is a patented app which has been developed by Ryans Bus Service operations manager Nigel Tooth and his sister Naomi Geurts to help rural and regional NSW operators with their ticketing requirements.

While e-ticketing system Opal is available in the state on most metro services, there is nothing similar available in rural and regional areas.

The app is run on an iPad or similar device and is primarily used as a ticketing machine – cash only at this stage – and a GPS to track buses.

It also collects passenger information which can be seen by operators in real-time and regularly collates reports – a useful feature as Transport for NSW asks for more vigorous reporting when contracts are up for renewal in late 2015.

Eventually, transportme will be able to support a model in which passengers will be able to ’tap on and tap off’ public transport services using their credit or debit card on participating services.

The technology will also allow for ‘tap on and tap off’ with smartphones once Near Field Communication (NFC) becomes readily available.

"For operators, it’s a big cost saving because of the fact it does both GPS and tracking as well as reporting – so it covers all bases," says Tooth.

He says traditionally operators need to buy separate ticketing and GPS machines for each bus.

"It’s a lot of money for operators out in the sticks to fork out."

NICHE MARKET

The app was originally developed for Coffs Harbour’s Ryans Bus Service’s and the fleet of 32 buses and all operate under the transportme technology.

The technology has since been picked up by operators Punchbowl and Osborn Bus Service.

Currently 15 buses are using the app on a trial basis, and feedback is expected in the coming months.

A further three operations are about to trial the app, and a consumer version of the app – which may be used by parents or teachers – is under development.

The app was originally born out of Tooth’s own frustration with what was available in the marketplace.

"We were having dramas with our own ticketing system and I just thought ‘there has to be a better way to do it’ and one that was cost effective that could be put on a large scale," he says.

"Ticket machines are expensive and are very basic in their applications…for us to go out and buy 32 ticketing machines didn’t make a lot of sense.

"Being an operator, we knew what worked, we knew what we needed the machine to perform, and we know what the public wants.

"We found a real niche in the marketplace to develop the technology.

"The cost effectiveness to put the system in place from one bus to 100 is extremely affordable for operators, which I believe is important."

The app will benefit operators and passengers by giving them information as the buses are running their routes, simply and on time. 

"There are currently apps that can give a very good approximation of the time their bus will arrive, but there is no app that can allow for a direct link to the bus," he says.

"The transportme app becomes their link to the bus and the company."

Tooth plans to spend time getting operators on board with the technology before making improvements.

"There are a few other operators that are still looking into it as well," he says.

"It’s one of those things where it’s a good benefit to everyone

"It will be good for the operators, good for the passengers and Transport for NSW will be able to get information quickly as well."

Transport for NSW requires operators to regularly file reports on things such as on-time running and passenger numbers.

The body also regularly asks for customer feedback, which is another aspect of information gathering to eventually be integrated into the transportme app.

"It will make it easier for operators to put that information together," says Tooth.

He says Transport for NSW were ‘pretty impressed’ with prototype versions of the app when they were showcased by Tooth in late 2013.

"I think this system should work well and I’m still in talks with them," says Tooth.

"I think they liked the idea of it."

The app is run on an iOS device or similar, and each driver is given a login which links to each individual bus and route.

The information is then sent up to the ‘cloud’ and transmitted back to base.

"It’s not like a two minute approximation – it’s continually updating all the time," explains Tooth.

Development of an app is not simple, with Tooth taking months to research and define what he needed from the app.

He eventually contacted Appster, a development firm based in Melbourne, which was able to put his idea together.

"It’s a lot of communication through phone, Skype, email or whatever to get it up to how you want it," explains Tooth.

"It’s a bit of a process getting it done but it was a good experience."

Tooth says the transportme app is not limited to bus services.

"It can be used in any form of transport, from trucking, rail, ferries, trams, taxis - the sky is the limit - or maybe not if planes wanted to use it," he says.

"But because of the flexibility of the system, it is not limited whatsoever.

 "It really is exciting times for transportme, and I believe once operators see the benefits and take that leap of faith, they will realise what we now do - that we wish we had invented this years ago."

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