20th September 2011

FixMyTransport – and make public transport better


Since the last update, GeoVation Challenge winners,  mySociety, have launched FixMyTransport a site for public transport users to report problems and they are already having loads of visits and issues reported.  Myf Nixon, from mySociety, explains:

Last time we updated, FixMyTransport had launched, quietly and unobtrusively: we didn’t want to make a song and dance about it until we were certain that it was running smoothly.

On August 30th, we announced our presence to the world: mentions in national and international newspapers, on the radio, in specialist press and across the blogosphere soon meant that word spread: on that day, we had over 10,000 visitors (and were very relieved to see that our server load testing had paid off).

Since then, we’ve been really pleased at how the site has been taken up: over 700 issues have been reported; knowledgeable users are weighing in with good advice for others; and we’re beginning to forge relationships with some of the transport operators who have been quick to see FixMyTransport’s potential for their customer relations departments.

This week we saw the first of our campaigns to gather over 100 supporters. It’s been interesting to watch patterns emerge, too: the issues that seem to most concern our users to date are access (to stations for those with limited mobility or children in tow); fare prices; over-crowding and delays.

fixmytransportmapBut there have been maverick reports too: one person requesting fewer seats on commuter trains (much outnumbered by reports that ask for more seats, it has to be said) and another wondering whether a slide might ease passenger congestion at Canada Water.

From the developer perspective, it’s been an intensive period of bug fixes, functionality enhancements, and user support. We’re logging of all the many suggestions that come to us via the ‘feedback’ button; our users seem particularly clued up on how they’d like the site to work better for them, which is great.

It’s been really gratifying to find that the vast majority of the feedback is warm and welcoming, even when the user has experienced a problem – in fact, FixMyTransport is already starting to feel like a community. There have been quite a few enquiries from people in other countries wondering if they can replicate the site – our answer is of course, yes; as with all mySociety projects, FixMyTransport is built on open source code and we are delighted to see others use it and contribute their own improvements or variations.

GeoVation funding was specifically for the mobile version of FixMyTransport, always a priority for a site that’s about travel. It was clear that for launch, even though an app would not be ready at that stage, we would need modified version of the website to support mobile user, and we put a lot of effort into making the mobile experience as good as possible.

We’re now seeing this as a preferred route to our finished mobile product: this approach removes the extra step for the user of actually downloading anything- it should be quick and easy just to visit the site on a browser. It also allows us to target multiple devices, and means that as features are introduced to the main site, they are also immediately accessible on mobile.

During the last month, we have been working on features specifically to help mobile users: integrating geolocation, and finding faster ways for users to report the most common problems on phones without too many keystrokes.

Although there are still many improvements on our list, FixMyTransport now works well on the phone models our visitors most frequently use, and we’re working on extending support and adding features that will make reporting issues from a mobile quick and easy. We’re getting there!