With way2cbe.com, bus routes in Coimbatore are just a click away
Coimbatore’s access to public transport information is now on a par with metros such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi thanks to IT engineer Saravanan J. In his final year at Kalaignar Karunanidhi Institute of Technology, he launched way2cbe.com that lists out 320 bus stops and 266 routes in Coimbatore. If you key in any destination, it offers multiple bus options. The website is a godsend to those new to the city and those without pockets deep enough for autos.
As a teenager, Saravanan used to visit relatives in Chennai often. To get around the city, he used mtcbus.org, the website of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation of Chennai. “It was my dream, even in Class IX, that someone create a similar website for Coimbatore,” he says. Eight years later, such a site still hadn’t materialised. Saravanan put himself to the task.
Equipped with his lifetime’s experiences on Coimbatore’s buses, Saravanan developed a physical map of all the bus routes from memory. “I also allotted bus routes I didn’t know well enough to my college friends. My mother’s knowledge and Kovai Diary helped fill the gaps,” he says.
Over a year’s labour, the maps were converted into a database with over 10,000 records. These were subject to an algorithm he developed with his professor’s help. “It takes at least two days to integrate a bus route into the database. I spent over two hours on the site each day to finish it.”
This is why way2cbe.com goes a step beyond its role model, mtcbus.org. It suggests bus routes even for stops that aren’t linked by a single bus. Using Google maps, Saravanan calculated the exact distance between bus stops and developed a program that could suggest the shortest route. This feature makes way2cbe.com as efficient as Chennai’s metrocommute.in and Delhi’s delhibusroutes.in.
While the site currently provides the average frequency of each bus, it does not provide the exact timings. “I hope to add this in the future but it isn’t easy gathering the data. Secondly, maintaining accuracy is impossible because bus drivers themselves don’t follow a strict schedule!” says Saravanan.
To place his service in the hands of Coimbatoreans without Internet access as well, Saravanan has developed a software whereby users can SMS their source and destination and receive suggested bus routes. This feature will be launched within a few weeks. Now, Saravanan spends his time safeguarding the website from security threats, updating the database and responding to feedback
The website, which currently registers over a 100 hits each day, has also been personally beneficial to Sarvanan. To build the site, he trained himself in scripting language, PHP (Hyptertext Pre-Processor). Today, he is a PHP developer at a company that recruited him for his success with the website.
In the future, he wants to integrate State transport buses and trains into ways2cbe.com and teach engineering students to develop socially-useful portals. Also in the pipeline are plans for a comprehensive website of Coimbatore’s resources, unbiased by the influence of sponsors.