What Happened To iPhone App Routesy

June 26, 2009

Routesy is an iPhone app that provides MUNI and BART arrival times and maps of stop locations. I had downloaded the app, liked it, and had a review all ready to go – but it recently stopped working. It would crash on every launch, specifically when searching for the arrival data. I then checked iTunes for an update, and noticed the app had been removed.

Well, there’s more to the story. Start on the Routesy website. Then, according to an article at SF Appeal, “NextBus Information Systems” claims ownership of the arrival time data. Ken Schmier, the CEO of this two-person company, contacted the Routesy developer (in true iPhone app tradition, just one person, Steven Peterson) and then Apple directly, saying that: “NextBus Information Systems Inc. is the sole agent for commercial use of the NextBus real-time prediction data in the United States and has exclusive rights to distribution of this data to mobile phones. The Routesy application downloads and republishes this copyrighted data which is damaging to us.”

But MUNI and NextBus Information Systems disagree on what this data ownership really means, and its exclusivity. According to an SF Weekly article, although Schmier patented the NextBus system back in 1996, a MUNI spokesperson says the city owns the Muni-related data, adding that “independent developers should have unfettered access to develop whatever nifty little apps they want.” That sounds to me like Routesy is a go.

My take: MUNI is screwed up enough as it is. With money woes, reliability problems, and hundreds of fare dodgers sneaking in through back doors - it needs all the help it can get. An iPhone app created by a developer at no expense on MUNI’s part, that encourages and boosts ridership and hence paying customers, should be welcomed and encouraged.

That “no expense” part is pretty key. Does anybody seriously believe the government would create a better app? Surely, if MUNI themselves, or worse – this NextBus Information Systems were to develop their own version – it would cost millions, arrive late, be sold for $1.00 and slowly creep upwards in 50 cent increments annually – until it slows down, crashes, and vanishes without a trace. With the California budget crisis raging – the city should save the money and go with free.

So MUNI – your buses disappear without a trace too often as it is. Please don’t make Routesy disappear, too.

(Thanks to reader Dave for sending me the research on what the heck happened to Routesy).


  1. J.R. says:

    Thanks for the info, I miss Routesy. Loved it, absolutely loved it. My message to NextBus: Your mobile site shows you have no ambition to be of service, and I think you're a jerk – not just for taking other apps away, but for being utterly out of touch with what the customer needs. I don't have faith that nextbus will offer an app that has half the convenience and good user experience of Routesy and NextMuni.

  2. J.R. says:

    by the way, the transit app to beat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fZk0HaIs4s

  3. webomatica says:

    Wow, that's pretty cool stuff. Unfortunately I don't have an iPhone
    3GS! Rats…