Portland’s Trimet: All About Mobile Development

Trimet is the Portland, Oregon metro area’s public transportation. I almost solely take public transportation and am heavily interested in the inner workings of the company, and so I’ve been keeping my eye on recent changes. One of the biggest changes Trimet has made lately has been moving towards a more mobile-friendly business model. This has involved the capability of buying fare using an app, as well as generally shifting towards easy, on-the-go information for smartphone-using riders.

 

TriMet_MAXThe mobile ticketing app has encountered some issues since its inception, mainly malfunctions that lead to a user not being able to pull up a ticket. The app anecdotally drains phone batteries quickly when running in the background, and has other minor problems. However, the ticket machines placed at every MAX (that’s the lightrail) stop also suffer from malfunctions from time to time, preventing riders from purchasing tickets or stamping non-validated tickets. Ultimately, the move toward mobile ticketing is positive, as long as there are still options for non-smartphone users. Building a mobile application, especially one so large-scale, is tricky business.

 

Trimet’s focus on mobile has resulted in some changes and current fluctuation. A mere few months ago, if you were waiting at a stop, you could text the stop number to Trimet and within seconds, receive a text listing the current estimated times that the bus or MAX will arrive. Right now, the only way to get that information on the go without a smartphone, is to call a number, sit through a lengthy spoken message, and punch in the code. I’ve noticed that some of the stops I’ve tried this with have been inaccurate, and I end up getting information for a completely different stop on the other side of the city. I’m hoping that this will get fixed soon, and I’m understanding of any difficulties in the interim, but it does make me wonder if Trimet is focusing away on those without smartphones (that includes me. My dumbphone hasn’t broken yet and I don’t want to pay for a data plan) and will abandon the texting transit tracker entirely.

 

Of course, for those with smartphones, Trimet’s mobile site contains the most important features of their website on a smaller scale. It allows you to check arrival times, plan out a trip from beginning to end, look at maps and service alerts, and more. If you need more detailed information, you can always visit the main website, though of course it is not quite as mobile-friendly and does not scale down well. Trimet also has an extensive listing of various types of transit-related apps if you wish to use any for a specific reason, though most seem to be different forms of transit trackers.

 

This general movement towards everything being smartphone-friendly, or accessible only on smartphone (TaskRabbit, I’m looking at you) means a shift into the future that we at Div Creative are only too happy to keep up with. Many of our websites are scalable into a mobile format, meaning there’s no need to scroll side to side to see all of the information. We are also able to develop and build mobile applications for your small business. If this sounds pretty neat, call or email us to set up a conversation. In a world where you can barely take the bus without using your phone to do so, mobile development is so, so important. Many people access information solely via mobile, and we don’t want anyone to get left behind (ahem, I’ll get a smartphone someday—I promise).