This weekly column will explore traffic, modes of transport and commuter requirements in the city.

A new generation of navigation apps (applications) on mobile platforms are crowd-sourcing GPS data from users to generate live traffic feed.

Google Maps, the most popular mapping and navigation mobile app in India, has already integrated traffic feed for major Indian cities. N. Raja Chinnathamby, who runs Route Star Navigation systems, explains: “The manner in which the apps determine traffic flow is simple. They plots the movement of a navigation system user by getting details of his GPS coordinates on a stretch and scanning the movement over a period of time,” he says.

“So for an arterial road, the average speed of the motorist is calculated. They don’t just calculate based on a single user. They get the average speed of multiple users and plot them on the map. We have seen it to be accurate up to 90 per cent of the time,” he adds.

Route Star Navigation System’s app, available for Android mobile devices through Google Play store, has integrated Google Maps in it using the API the company has provided. By default, any of its 45,000 subscribers across the country thus contribute to the traffic data.

These apps do not just help users generate traffic data across a crowd-sourced map. Apps like Waze also allows users to report traffic events – such as accidents or even police check posts.

Chennai, despite having in place multiple modes of public transport, is yet to give its commuters a smartcard that could provide for seamless shifting between Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses, suburban trains and MRTS trains.

In fact, the lack of penetration of the concept across the country is intriguing, as queues in front of ticket counters continue to challenge commuters everywhere.

When the smartcard was introduced in 2009 by Southern Railway, it was hyped as the answer to long queues in front of ticket counters. But the popularity of these cards has waned over the years.

According to data provided by Southern Railway, only 2,268 smartcards were sold during eight months of 2013-14, as against 13,823 cards sold in 2012-13. Even Mumbai has not been able to buck the trend, as sales have come down to 12-13 per cent of overall sales. The smartcards were hugely successful in that city in 2010, when 18 per cent of ticket sales took place off the counter.

In Delhi, the multi-modal and multi-city ‘More’ cards introduced by the ministry for urban development have been gaining ground. According to Shreya Gadepalli of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, around 50 per cent of commuters use the National Common Mobility Card in the Delhi Metro.

In Chennai however, where 83 per cent of the public travels on MTC buses, there is no sign of smartcards being introduced by the authorities.

(Reporting by Karthik Subramanian and R. Srikanth)

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