Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Moovit Powers Public Transit App With the Wisdom of the Crowd

Waze, the crowdsourced navigation app for car drivers, has been one of the breakout start-ups of the past year. Now a different company with a similar pedigree is trying to do the same thing for public transportation.

Founded in 2011, Moovit makes a free crowdsourced transit app for iOS and Android that has been downloaded 400,000 times. Two months ago it added support for cities around the world, including New York, Rome and Madrid.

Moovit is hardly the only transit-trip-planning app out there. There are start-ups like Embark, heavyweights like Google, as well as local apps — New York’s MTA just launched its iPhone app.

But using crowdsourced data makes Moovit a bit different. Users contribute tidbits about available seats, delays, cleanliness, and support for Wi-Fi and handicapped riders. So you can use the wisdom of the crowd to avoid the crowd, as it were.

And, perhaps most importantly, users contribute information back into the system about whether the time estimates were accurate. According to Moovit CEO Nir Erez, that makes the app especially useful for commuters, not just for tourists who have never taken a particular route before.

Moovit doesn’t have a formal relationship with Waze, but Erez said he’s fairly confident that the crowdsourcing giant won’t come onto his turf, given that Waze founder and president Uri Levine is on the Moovit board.

And Moovit is different from its Israeli start-up sibling Waze in a couple of key ways. Waze is a map-based app, and Moovit is all about time tables. And Waze’s community actually edits the maps its navigation depends on; in Moovit’s case, the underlying data comes from municipal transit agencies.

But the quality of data varies by the city, Erez said. Chicago, for example, provides excellent real-time data that can easily be incorporated in trip planning. Milan provides only static schedule information, meaning that Moovit needs about 30,000 active users to be able to fill in the real-time data. And in cities like Rio de Janeiro there’s really no public transit data access, so Moovit needs even more users to build out a schedule.

Like other transit apps, Moovit benefited from Apple neglecting to include built-in transit directions when it built its own Apple Maps app to replace Google Maps. But Erez estimated that only 10 percent of downloads have come from users referred by the Apple Maps app.

Moovit has 20 employees, and raised Series A funding from Gemini Israel Ventures and BRM Group.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald