NextStop Realtime Sneak Peek

Last Friday the MTA released their realtime subway app SubwayTime along with new APIs that third party developers can use to access realtime data for the 1,2,3,4,5,6 and Grand Central Shuttle.

Several months ago, the MTA shared their plans with the developer community, and provided some sample feeds to start working with. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this development since the first release of NextStop over 2 years ago, so naturally I jumped right on it.

The new realtime APIs are based on Google’s GTFS-realtime which uses protocol buffers to transmit data instead of the more traditional (but less efficient) XML or JSON. Learning to use the new format took a little time, but the real challenge was figuring out how to incorporate realtime data without complicating the NextStop user experience. In addition, one of NextStop’s key benefits has always been the ability to access schedules while “off the grid”, and that’s something I wanted to maintain for a realtime version.

After a little experimentation, I decided to stick with the standard NextStop countdown interface for displaying both the realtime countdowns and the static schedule countdowns. The app uses realtime information whenever it’s available, and now includes a colored dot next to the countdown to indicate what the arrival estimate is based on. The dot is green when the estimate is based on recent realtime information, yellow when it’s based on older realtime information (between 5 and 10 minutes old) and gray when it’s based on schedules.

Green, yellow and gray dots indicate the type of arrival time

Green, yellow and gray dots indicate the type of arrival time

Naturally, an Internet connection is needed in order to download realtime data, so the “off the grid” problem was even more challenging. The eventual solution was to leverage the iPhone’s geofencing services to automatically download updated data without any user interaction when they are approaching a station. This information is then stored locally so that it’s available for display when they open the app on the platform.

Thanks to the MTA’s early heads up, I was able to complete the majority of coding before the API went public. After the announcement on Friday, I made some final tweaks, and submitted the new version for app store review over the weekend.

If the review process goes well, the new version should be available for download from the App Store in the next week or so. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle article features NextStop

I  recently had the pleasure of being  interviewed by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle about NYC transportation apps. It was great to be able to discuss how the MTA is sharing their data and how developers can take advantage of that information and can make great apps with it. You can read the full article here.

NextStop 2.0.2 Available

NextStop 2.0.2 is now available in the App Store. This is a minor maintenance release that includes:
  • The most recent map
  • Updated schedules
  • Improved location handling
  • iOS 5 and general bug fixes
You can grab the update here or via the App Store on your phone.

NextStop Featured on NY1

I just learned that NextStop was featured on the NY1 earlier this the month. The video is available on their website here: MTA Service A Snap With Smartphone Apps – NY1.com

NextStop Receives Honorable Mention in NYC BigApps 2.0 Competition

NextStop creator Doug Burns receiving award from Mayor Bloomberg

We’re happy to announce the NextStop received an honorable mention in the 2011 NYC Big Apps 2.0 Competition! This is the second year for BigApps, a competition that encourages software developers to create innovative applications that benefit NYC residents, visitors, and businesses using New York City Open Data. The NextStop submission can be viewed here.  

NextStop 2.0 Now Available

After months of hard work, I’m happy to announce that NextStop 2.0 is now available in the App Store! Changes include…
  • Schedule display updates – when a countdown reaches 0, it gets grayed out and the next train appears
  • The official MTA map, with the ability to tap any station to view the current schedule
  • A new Alerts tab, which shows current MTA Alerts and Advisories
  • Push Notifications when there are alerts on your favorite line
  • Retina display graphics throughout
  • A new icon
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes
If you’re an existing user, the update should appear in the App Store app. If you’re a new user, just search for NextStop in the App Store or follow this link.

NextStop – Doomsday Edition

NextStop v1.1.01 was submitted to the App Store this evening. It has been updated to reflect the recent Doomsday service cuts, and is also once again compatibile with iOS 3.1+ (NextStop 1.1 was inadvertantly iOS 4+ only). If you ride the subway regularly, you’re probably already familiar with the changes, but if not:
  • The V has been discontinued
  • The W has been discontinued
  • The M is now orange and has been reconfigured to pick up some of the old V stops
  • The N is now local in Manhattan (this one affects me and it sucks!)
  • Some Q trains run north of 59th Street into Queens to pick up old W stops
  • G trains no longer run north of Long Island City / Court Square
If the past 2 releases are any indication, 1.1.01 should be available for download in 6-7 days. There were quite  a few changes required behind the scenes, so if you see anything strange please let me know in the support forum. Thanks!

NextStop 1.1

Just about a week after NextStop v1.0 was approved, v1.1 has been submitted to the App Store. This version includes:
  • Basic iOS 4 compatibility (Doesn’t crash & supports basic backgrounding… More to come.)
  • 3 line station list now uses correct color
  • Now displays help text when no favorites are present
Hopefully it will be approved by the end of this week as the first iPhone 4s roll out!

Introducing NextStop

After picking up my first iPhone nearly two years ago, one of the first apps that I purchased was CityTransit, an interactive map of the NYC Subway. I remember the months leading up to that purchase, thinking how great it was going to be to have my own personal (discreet) subway map; no more researching a trip before I left home, no more leaning over strangers on the train to find my stop. Since then, I’ve purchased several other Subway apps and I continue to use them all frequently. One feature that always interested me, but was missing from the early apps was schedules. At any given time, I wanted to know when my train was supposed to arrive, so I could “reroute” if necessary. After a while iTrans came along and offered this feature, but it took a few clicks to find the schedules, so I didn’t end up using it as much as I would have liked. This is what inspired me to create NextStop. Unlike all other Subway apps, NextStop is completely schedule based. It doesn’t provide maps, routes or the bells and whistles of some other apps, it simply makes scheduling information easily available. You can save favorites for instant access to your most common routes (morning commute, evening commute, etc.) or find the next arrival time for trains at all nearby stations. I’ve been using NextStop for several months during it’s development, and it too has become one of my most frequently used apps. Yesterday, NextStop was approved for the iTunes App Store and now you can download it (for free!) as well. Please give it a try and let me know what you think, either by posting feedback in the NextStop forum or leaving a review in the App Store. I hope that you find it as useful as I have.