Forget the consistently wrong bus schedules and the need to be a seasoned Chicagoan to figure out all the public transportation tricks, because two Lake View siblings have created a tool to make navigating the city a bit more – visual.
Shayna Hirsch, 28, and her brother Robert, 31, have spent the last year and a half developing ziptrip, a new smartphone application aimed at smoothing out the sometimes wonky commutes with the Chicago Transit Authority.
Unlike current apps with seemingly endless lists of bus stops or a constant need to refresh the app to update the data, the Hirsches, formerly of Buffalo Grove, created an interactive map that recognizes where the commuter is standing in the city and plots out all the area bus stops.
“There are probably a dozen or so CTA apps out there now, most of which are terrible. Well, no, they’re all terrible,” laughed Robert, a graphic designer who created ziptrip’s look. “They’re all exactly the same, and nobody likes using them. So we thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this.’”
"We use ziptrip every day, and moving forward with 11 going away, (finding alternative routes) is just something we’re going to have to think about.”
Robert said he and his sister Shayna would commute on the CTA every day for work, becoming increasingly frustrated with each app they tried out. Eventually they realized the solution they were looking for didn’t exist, so they created their own.
With unique features like the visual map pinpointing buses in real time, as well as reminder settings so commuters can get an alert when their bus is five or 10 minutes away, the Hirsches think their app is simply more useful. And so far, ziptrip users agree. The app currently has a five-star rating in the iTunes apps store, and the duo says they’ve gotten a few hundred downloads since its launch six months ago.
However, the two – who also live together – have another motive behind perfecting the app. Shayna says they personally rely on the soon-to-be-cancelled No. 11 bus, so they’ll be using their own app to discover new ways to make their daily commute downtown.
“The 11 bus is going away, and I know the Western Avenue bus is, too,” Shayna said. “We live at Lincoln and Wellington, and we’re so pissed off about it … We use ziptrip every day, and moving forward with 11 going away, (finding alternative routes) is just something we’re going to have to think about.”
Once the buses are cancelled, ziptrip will be automatically updated to not include any discontinued routes.
In the meantime, the two are listening closely to the reaction from users. And with the CTA reporting more than 1.6 million riders every weekday, the Hirsches are hoping to hear even more.
“The crazy part is that in the last three months, we’ve tripled our downloads and monthly users,” Robert said. “We’re kind of impressed at this point. People are truly liking it a lot.”
Ziptrip sells at the Apple iTunes store for 99 cents.