Cheshire & Chester Council

Sector
Public Sector – Local Authority

About the council

In early 2014 Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) was awarded government funding through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). This funding was to enhance options for travelling to work in order to encourage more sustainable forms of travel including; walking, cycling and car sharing, together with the use of public transport.

The procurement exercise was sent out to the development community to appoint a supplier to design, develop and implement a travel app for iOS and Android devices, making use of existing data. Suppliers needed to be able to demonstrate the use of innovation within the sector and also have experience in creating a solution that met the Council’s specification and budgetary conditions.

The challenge

The itravelsmart app has been the product of partnership working between the Councils Local Sustainable Transport Team and Planning and Strategic Transport Service, working closely with the supplier where an agile approach to design and development was required.

The solution

mxData was commissioned to develop the app using our own GeoHawk platform to provide access to a variety of data sources, aggregation services and abstract the detail away from the app. It was important in the brief that the app should utilise existing data rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’.

The platform had an architecture designed for the aggregation of rich and live/dynamic content with a spatial component from multiple feeds and content sources.

A number of different data feeds were underpinned by the GeoHawk platform giving both the client and app users a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Bus schedule information – This TNDS TransXchange bus schedule information – this is supplied to Traveline and mxData for the purpose of providing information on bus schedules.
  • Multi- modal journey planning – This formed part of the platform service and underpins the SilverRail Journey Planning engine.
  • Rail arrivals and departures – Regional station information was provided within the app. This consists of live APIs and content feeds which are regularly refreshed (as often as every few minutes) from the ATOC servers.
  • Dedicated cycle journey planning – The CycleStreet.Net API relied on Open Street Map content to provide dedicated cycle journey planning which was also provided through the GeoHawk platform. As added value mxData deep linked to the CycleStreets mobile app to provide full turn by turn navigation.
  • Social media updates – CWAC’s itravelsmart posts were pulled through directly into the app.
  • Park and Ride site information – capacity and scheduled bus information
  • City Car Club Locations – details about the vehicle availability

Results

Cheshire West and Chester Council were delighted with the finished product; the itravelsmart app. The app was available for both iOS and Android devices and CWaC were satisfied that it would help them to meet their objective to encourage more sustainable forms of transport. This article in the Chester Chronicle highlights some of success of the itravelsmart app.

cheshire-itravelsmart-mobile-app

The app’s advanced functionality included the following features:

  • Near Me – locates users on the map (within the area of coverage). Showing train stations and their facilities, bus stops (showing next service departures) and Park & Ride sites with a zoom & pan functionality.
  • Cycle Planner – plan a journey using a range of route characteristics (quickest or quietest route) via Cycle Streets.
  • Public Transport Planner – select start and end points on the map or use the search feature and itravelsmart to plan  a route. Clear results screen with routes plotted on a map or as a list. Track easily whilst on the move.
  • Bus Timetables – A searchable catalogue of route numbers and times. A mix of live and timetabled information dependant on the coverage area selected with automatic timetable updates.
  • Shuttle Service – services are available to take users to and from work, operating on a flexible route. Through the app users can register and book trips in advance.
  • City Car Club – Users can find out where the nearest vehicle is located and be directed to the online booking portal to hire a car by the hour.
  • Bus Stop Damage – Encourage users to help make their local environment a better place bysharing sights of vandalism and maintenance issues with their council by uploading photographic evidence along with a short description.
  • Twitter – keeps users up to date with all the latest tweets for travel in the Cheshire West and Chester region including disruption,incident alerts and scheduled highways maintenance.
  • Useful Numbers – Council related transport contacts and all the local bus operator phone numbers in one place.

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Testimonials 

“The itravelsmart app for journey planning is now an award winning app, picking up the ‘Best Smarter Travel App’ award at last year’s Smarter Travel 2015 conference held in Birmingham.

The Smarter Travel Awards recognise engaging marketing campaigns, technical innovation, improved journeys and measurable behaviour change. The Best Smarter Travel App award looked for an outstanding smarter travel mobile phone and tablet app or mobile website that makes effective use of the medium, providing accurate and timely information using accredited data sources.

The free itravelsmart app from Cheshire West and Chester Council won the award after competing against mobile apps from Brighton & Hove City Council, West of England, Local Sustainable Transport Team Bristol, Sefton Council and The University of Leicester.”

itravelsmart awards

 “The itravelsmart app is proving a very useful tool for travelling around the borough. Whether using the bus, bike, train or car there are benefits of using the travel app for both commuters and leisure users while on the move” 

Councillor Brian Clarke – Economic Development & Infrastructure

Next steps

Further iterations are due to be launched over the course of 2016 and these will include increased functionality within the app for:

  • Timetabling
  • Further coverage of Rail Lines
  • POI data and cycle hub localities
  • Customer Satisfaction Survey

The Council are also looking at potential partner opportunities for marketing with local businesses. This would be served through the app and would offer increased visibility to some of the leading attractions within the Cheshire and Chester region.

The video below gives a good overview of the features available and the app is available to download free on both iOS and Android.

 

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