Finding a business idea by helping lost commuters


27 Nov 2008

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When Dave Rooney and his friend Vinny Glennon left college, finding a job was not the biggest challenge – it was finding their way to the interview in the first place via public transport. Rooney thought that, just maybe, there might be a better way, a website that would route your journey, and so JustRoutes.com was born.

“I was sitting in the kitchen one night looking at all these bus routes and thinking, ‘There must be a better way.’ Call it a light-bulb moment or whatever, but we began working on mapping out all of the bus routes in the Dublin area immediately.”

Rooney and Glennon wasted no time and had a prototype up and running within a few days, adding more and more routes as they went along. Aside from a few routes that have changed recently, JustRoutes.com has listed all of the bus lines in the Dublin area.

JustRoutes is a public transport advisor: if you visit the site and enter in your start point and end point for getting around Dublin, you will be offered the most direct route via all forms of public transport, followed by a list of alternative routes, aided by Google Maps and walking or driving directions.

This kind of service is already very popular in bigger metropolitan areas such as London (Tubeplanner.com) and New York (HopStop.com), and like JustRoutes, these typically offer mobile directions too.

There is no other service like this available in Ireland. Although Dublin Bus does have its routes mapped by GPS, for now, this is for internal use only.

Detailed information on public transport in and to Dublin is great idea, but where does a monetisation strategy come in?

“We are looking at offering embedded applications, or widgets, to companies that can use this on the ‘contact us/find us’ page of their site. This would also extend to universities and to government departments, as well as hospitals and public places,” says Rooney.

The technology behind JustRoutes uses a unique overlay with GPS co-ordinates that provides Google Maps as a visual guide, simply because Google Maps is a well-known service.

For a newly emerging firm, JustRoutes has gained quite an audience already, and Rooney puts this down, in part, to the marketing plan: “Although JustRoutes.com is open to the public, we are still in beta, so we decided to go for a grassroots approach with our marketing.

“We are seeing a lot more people using the site, and this is literally spreading just through word-of-mouth recommendations, blogs and social messaging services such as Twitter,” says Rooney.

“As soon as we complete the Dublin area and routes from commuter towns, we will be mapping Cork and Galway City – all the local buses there – so eventually you could be on Grand Parade in Cork City and decide you were heading to Dublin City University, and the most direct route would be there.”

This is something JustRoutes will be releasing in January 2009, and Rooney feels the most difficult part is over – mapping Dublin: “Once you leave Dublin, you realise that public transport in the other cities and towns is not as heavy or as complex.”

As with all online applications or services, there is also a need to get a mobile-compatible version out there as soon as possible. JustRoutes.com has had mobile specialists advising it on this aspect, and Rooney says that, initially, it takes a different perspective to understand the flexibility but also the limitations of mobile offerings.

Like the New York subway guide HopStop.com, JustRoutes has dispensed with the Google Maps display for its mobile-compatible service, and is simply offering text directions.

“We have had people ask for services for GPS-enabled phones, such as the iPhone or Nokia N95, but the majority of mobile users don’t have this functionality, so we need to cast as wide a net as possible, and of course, not drain someone’s handset battery with GPS usage,” says Rooney.

With all of these developments, you could say JustRoutes is well on the road to success. So far, it has mapped 7,500 bus, train, Luas and Dart stops nationwide, is available in nine languages and has generated 14,000 journeys to date.

By Marie Boran

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