Called the MRT Trackr, the Android-based app created by young Filipino developers aims to improve commuters’ experience when riding Metro Manila’s three main transit lines — the MRT, the LRT1, and the LRT2.
Currently under open beta-testing, the app has five main functions: Finding a Train Station, Riding a Train Station, Creating Reports, Information, and Leaderboard.
But for Michie Ang, half of the duo that brought MRT Trackr to life, the most useful part of the app is the ability to report and receive information about the current state of train stations and cars.
“Some people think the app doesn’t make sense, because they think that to improve the MRT-3, LRT-1, LRT-2, you need to add more trains,” Ang told InterAksyon in an interview via email. “But with the use of this app, commuters will be informed of the current situation in a Train Station. Basically, that is a big help already.”
Ang outlined a possible scenario wherein the MRT management would restrict entry of passengers in a certain station due to technical problems with the trains, a common occurrence that besets the capital’s transit system today.
“If commuters were informed about this right away, commuters wouldn’t climb the very high stairs of [a certain station] to find out that it would take them one to two hours just to get inside the station,” she explained.
Having such kinds of information on hand, Ang believes, is already a benefit for commuters who could then find alternative transport means to get to their destination.
In addition, through the reporting facility available within the app, commuters can easily post about train car breakdowns or other technical problems in the stations they’re in, allowing other users to be quickly informed of the situation as well.
“This can also create a movement [in that] if passengers keep on reporting the same report every day, [then it's imperative that] the administrators should do something about it,” Ang added.
Ang said the hope is that through the app, commuters wouldn’t have to suffer through much hassle and headache when going around the city, in the same way the Traffic Navigator project collaboration between InterAksyon and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) helped motorists view traffic information and plan their routes.
Ang, and her co-developer Ryan Escarez, said they are in the initial stages of conversation with the MRT and LRT management through its spokesperson, Atty. Hernando Cabrera.
“If the government will allow, we hope that one day we can buy tickets with the use of our phone first before going to the train station of our choice,” Ang said.
“Why not with the use [of] MRTtrackr, we can just tap our phone in the entrance and need [not] worry [about] lining up at the ticketing booth?” she added.
Such kinds of ticketing systems are already being piloted in some areas of the world, with smartphones equipped with near-field communication (NFC) chips — such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and the newer BlackBerry phones — being used as replacement for physical tickets.
And with more phone models slowly being outfitted with NFC capabilities, Ang’s pipe dream may soon become a reality — only if the government is so inclined to implement such a system.
“If MRTtrackr works well for the public, we also would want to scale it up by innovating the future BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), taxis and Jeepneys,” she added.
The app is currently available for the open-beta phase on the Android platform, but Ang said versions for the iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone are currently in the works.
MRT Trackr traces its roots to the Global Android Dev Camp organized by the search giant in the Philippines last February. Escarez developed the app during the 48-hour hackathon, which received the Globe Choice Award distinction.
But Escarez didn’t launch the app then, and it was only after being sought out by Ang — who was knowledgeable about application design — did the project materialize.
“The app was done in less than a week,” Ang related. “But we didn’t have a chance to test it since we only have one Android phone plus the fact that both of us are working.”
Despite being an additional workload they would have to plow through, Ang said they are tirelessly pushing through with the app’s development “to do something for our country.”
“We made this because we believe it might somewhat improve our train system,” she added.