U of T-developed app can inform transit policy

City Logger can track commutes and provide insight into modes of travel

U of T-developed app can inform transit policy

Whether your commute is a short subway trip or a lengthy bus ride, you can use the City Logger app to monitor your data while aiding provincial governments in transit funding and planning decisions.

Developed by a team of U of T researchers, City Logger runs in the background of your phone and will collect location and time data to aid researchers in their understanding of transit user behaviour.

The app is part of a larger research project called the Transportation Tomorrow Survey (TTS), which has been conducted every five years since 1986 to collect household travel data.

Chris Harding, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering at U of T, has been one of the driving forces behind this project. According to Harding, the TTS had collected data from 150,000 households by landline surveying during 2011 and 2016. However, this method has been costly and time-consuming.

“We needed to explore new ways to collect data in a region, and smartphones were one of these things that we were looking at,” said Harding.

Harding notes that there are some limitations when it comes to surveying through an application, including technical limitations like GPS location disruptions, and physical limitations like the way people interact with the application. However, this method has proven to be more advantageous than conventional forms of surveying in the past. Harding said that City Logger enabled his team to reach a younger audience range and capture transit trips that go unreported in most conventional surveys.

“When you have stand-alone apps, you would find that the trips go underreported anywhere from 25 to 40% of the actual trips that [commuters] make and so the app… allows us to not have that self-reporting [error],” said Harding.

City Logger is currently available for download on both Android and iOS devices.

VIP available just a tap away

Third-year engineering student Matthew Marji developed an app to make Toronto’s nightlife easier to navigate

VIP available just a tap away

Booth & Bottle is an app conceptualized and developed by fourth-year U of T engineering student Matthew Marji. It was designed to facilitate access to the city’s nightlife which, according to Marji, “has always been a major component of our daily Toronto experience.”

The app includes a number of venues throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Marji and his team “wanted individuals to engage in an industry that is supported by a plethora of local businesses — both small and large — all of which contributes to Toronto’s cultural makeup.” With the app, tables or VIP booths can be booked in advance.

In addition to partnering with local venues, Booth & Bottle also has a relationship with the IBM Innovation Centre in Toronto — one of many centres throughout North America that provides small businesses with technological services designed to reach new markets.

Marji gratefully noted that because of the relationship with IBM, Booth & Bottle has been able “to engage in a wide-range of strategic partnerships,” which he hopes will help with expanding the app in the near future.

The team’s plan for expansion is being actively pursued. They intend to grow Booth & Bottle technologically, and expand its scope nationally.

In addition to easing the planning process, the app offers perks to its users. The app features a points system, where points can be earned by referring friends to the app and by making reservations and sharing them on social media. The points can then be used toward drinks, style upgrades, and free entry into clubs.

Marji’s background in engineering has helped him a great deal in developing the app. Through his schooling, he gained “the technical skills needed to develop a mobile application from scratch,” as well as “the soft skills needed to… approach and assess problems strategically [and]… to engage in an entrepreneurial environment with confidence.”

School can be stressful, and going out with friends can be a great way to relax. Booth & Bottle helps to simplify the planning of a night out. Marji summed it up best when he said that, “the memories forged throughout our four years at the university will relate the experiences shared with friends, with late-night Toronto as our backdrop.”

Correction (March 2nd, 2016): An earlier version of this article misidentified Matthew Marji.