Montreal-based public transportation app The Transit App has surpassed 35,000 downloads in 72 hours in a remarkable week for the current FounderFuel accelerator team. It also didn’t hurt when Funkmaster Flex plugged them, telling his followers about the free app.
Cofounder Sam Vermette said releasing the 2.0 version of the app was a big milestone for the startup, while the quick traction made the week even better.
“We launched Tuesday and we had 10,000 downloads the first day, 15,000 the next day and we thought that was a good run. Then we saw we were Editor's Choice in the Canada App Store,” said Vermette. “It’s been a really exciting ride.”
The app store feature lifted The Transit App to the #2 navigation app and #1 in the Canadian store.
Before The Transit App went free this week, it was sitting at over 500,000 downloads based on a subscription model, but not all of those users opted to pay for all the features. Wasting no time getting to the point Vermette told Techvibes that, “transit riders don’t want to pay for a transit app, no matter how good it is.”
The company’s quest for users hasn’t exactly been an easy one, especially when most of its targeted audience uses Google Maps.
But what differentiates the startup is a “killer design,” according to FounderFuel manager Ian Jeffrey. Google may have all the world’s transit data but there’s always room for competitors who can offer a finer user interface.
“Technically speaking The Transit App is a very solid team. Both [Vermette] and Guillaume Campagna are solid engineers and Sam is an incredible designer. They’ve had some real traction, and we were somewhat confidant that going free would have an impact,” Jeffrey said. “Obviously it did.”
It currently supports 37 transit markets: 22 in the United States and 15 in Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, where functionality covers multiple transit systems, including those in suburban areas.
Users of the app have reacted positively to the “Nearby Mode,” feature where all possible public transport routes and departures around their area are immediately displayed without user action.
Competing with the likes of Google is a double-edged sword for The Transit App. After all, Google created General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) in 2005 and, as a result, it provides all transit data for third-party developers. Thus The Transit App is actively trying to lure users away from Google while relying on their data.
What needs to change is real-time data availability for third-party developers. Not just in North America but all around the world. With more than 160 million daily trips (six times more than the US), Europe presents big opportunity for transit apps. But it’s rare for European cities to release their data.
Paris recently made headlines among developers by doing so and The Transit App has been working to integrate the data accordingly.
Vermette envisions the day where users can have a simple “transit passport” on their phone, ready for use in with any transit agency in any city.
“The concept of not being able to board a bus if my card is empty or if I don’t have any change is ridiculous,” said Vermette.
The team is working towards an Android launch as well as a big Demo Day in July, where all FounderFuel teams will pitch their product to a crowd of more than 800 investors and media. Undoubtedly, it will be interesting to see how investors respond when the team hits the stage next month.