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MCR On The Moovit: But What Is It?

Citymapper rival launches in Manchester... but does it work?

Written by . Published on February 21st 2015.

MCR On The Moovit: But What Is It?

IF YOU'VE ever found yourself drunk, alone and confused in a dark and hairy London with a gang of ne'er-do-wells eyeing you up like Harry Styles in the Wormwood Scrubs baths, you'll know Citymapper is a god-send.

“Our vision is to help get Manchester moving faster, improving the quality of people’s lives by reducing their journey times." Great.. if it worked.

The journey planning 'map-app' has been making sure Londoners don't ever really need to know London since 2010, using real-time public transport data to get folk from A to B quick-sharp via multiple means and routes - it'll even tell you how long and how much.

In short, it's very clever, very handy and on practically every single smart phone in London, and is now making roads into New York, Paris, Berlin and, most recently, Manchester.

However, on a recent trip Citymapper appeared to ignore the existence of the Metrolink altogether, which is a fairly crucial omission in Manchester (Citymapper would come good later on, mind)

Good news then that Citymapper rival Moovit - a new Israeli-founded travel app which has just bagged over £30m in investment from Nokia and BMW, amongst others - has just launched in Manchester, we being the first non-London English city to get it (becoming a trend that).

Here's the BIG sell:

The free Moovit app boasts some serious numbers too; fifteen million users (one million new users a month) in over 500 cities in 45 countries across the globe. Moovit plans to launch in all major UK cities following Manchester. 

Unlike Citymapper, Moovit combines data from travel authorities with live information provided by local, clued-up users (or in San-Fran-speak, a 'hyper-engaged community' - urgh) to make travellers aware of real time events on Manchester's train, bus and tram networks as they happen.

The blurb states the app can even tell you how many seats are left and how clean the transport is.

The idea is to 'democratise' the transport system, says Alex Torres, former Google-man and now Vice President of Marketing at Moovit. "Public transportation is not going to be solved by public authorities alone. Everyone needs to help."

Alex TorresAlex Torres - Moovit Man

“Our vision is to help get Manchester moving faster, improving the quality of people’s lives by reducing their journey times. With the recent announcement of a new fifteen-stop Metrolink line to Manchester Airport it is evident that the city is seeing an exciting phase of growth,” says Torres.

“Over £313 million is set to be spent on the city’s transport networks by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and we’re keen to be at the forefront of tracking these improvements for the benefit of the people living, working and visiting here.”

Still, enough of the marketing guff... does it actually work?

Not this time.

Everything is rosy...Everything was rosy...

We tested Moovit's minerals on Friday 20 February during a trip from the city centre to the Oldham Coliseum theatre twelve miles away.

Everything started rosily, we were told to walk the nine minutes from the top of Deansgate to Shudehill, where we'd arrive at 18.08 just in time to hop on the MET 5 (East Didsbury to Rochdale) at 18.09. We were told to alight from the tram ten stops later at 18.37 in Oldham Central. Fool proof.

Except, Shudehill was closed. Moovit had mugged us off.

Clearly the app hadn't sourced closure updates from Metrolink and not one of Moovit's 'hyper-engaged community' had bothered to mention that one of the city's busiest bus and tram terminals was closed for maintenance works on Balloon Street. Not good.

It was left to reliable ol' flesh a blood - a jubbly little Metrolink lady stood on the Shudehill platform - to advise us that the nearby Victoria Station line had reopened on Wednesday, and we could get to Oldham that way.

"Victoria?" sputtered Moovit back. "Where the fuck is that?" The app still insisting that we walk back to Shudehill. The phone went off.

Walk from the open Victoria back to the closed Shudehill... eh?Walk from the reopened Victoria back to the closed Shudehill... eh?

So, all in all, about as useful as a fishing rod in the Sahara.

Perhaps this is unfair. Moovit had only launched in Manchester the day before, and can't rely on its users for live updates until it actually has some users. As the promo video says, "The more people that use it, the better Moovit gets."

Still, you'd hope an app which sourcing 'live data' would know that Manchester's £44m refurbed Victoria Station line opened two days previously. Not only that, but Moovit failed to find an internet connection when 4G was hunky dory (see below).

And to stick the boot right up Moovit's jacksie, on the journey back rival-app Citymapper kicked-in and finally recognised the Metrolink, guiding us home beautifully.

If this is what £30m gets you, Nokia and BMW may need to dig deeper into those pockets.

If you want to give it a try - Moovit is available for free in the Apple App Store, Google Play App Store, Windows Phone App Marketplace, or at moovitapp.com.

Photo 5But I have 4G?

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