Vancouver trip-planning app goes head-to-head against Google Maps
Cowlines incorporates bike share, car share, and public transit options
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A Vancouver-based company says it can do better than Google when it comes to trip planning.
The app, called Cowlines, gives users a route that can include a combination of all available transportation methods, whereas Google Maps asks users to pick one – car, public transit, or on foot.
Cowline, a term urban planners use to describes the easiest or best path to a destination, describes the app perfectly, said David Oliver, cofounder and CEO of Greenlines Technology.
“We have over 60 [transportation] providers across Metro Vancouver. The first simple thing to do is to combine them all to make sure people have choices when they move around,” he said.
“If we can persuade people to leave their cars at least once a week, we can reduce pollution.”
The app gives people the option of fastest, cheapest, and best route. It also tells users the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions a Cowlines-planned trip would emit compared to using a private car.
Cowlines has agreements with six transit providers in the Lower Mainland so far, including Translink, Modo, Mobi, and taxi companies. Greenlines is currently in talks to include Aquabus and False Creek Ferries in the app and will integrate Uber and Lyft as well once those companies are allowed to operate in the province, said Oliver.
Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer is one of 200 people beta-testing the app and says it has helped her out of several tough situations already.
“I’ve had days where I have gone to four or five or six meetings across the course of the day, had a soccer game, and then gone to a gala after that. You’re making a lot of decisions throughout the day about what is the fastest, what’s the lowest [environmental] impact,” said Reimer, who has not owned a car for 22 years.
“So this idea that there is an app that can actually help you make really good real-time decisions, financial decisions, green-house-gas decisions about how to get somewhere, is quite cool.”
People in Metro Vancouver can download the app for free starting in April; it will then launch in cities across Canada and the United States in June.
Oliver says the plan is to keep the app free and to generate revenue by selling data to transit authorities. The app tracks people’s door-to-door movements – something transit planners would love to have, he said.
“Right now [Translink] doesn’t have that information because when you tap into a bus, you don’t tap out, so they don’t know where you end up. That’s something they desperately need.”
Greenlines has been discussing a data-sharing agreement with TransLink for months, he said. Oliver was quick to address privacy concerns too.
“No user data will be attached to your GPS location – ever. You will have an ID number that identifies that user moving around. That’s the data that we will share.”