SkySong entrepreneurs develop accurate, user-friendly light rail app

"Find My Train" is a convenient app developed by ASU Alumni, Michael Witham that aids Phoenix commuters. The iPhone App can be purchased through the App Store for $1.99. (Photo by Ashley Kesweder)

“Find My Train” is an app developed by ASU alumnus Michael Witham that aids Phoenix commuters. The iPhone App can be purchased through the App Store for $1.99. (Photo by Ashley Kesweder)

Missing the Metro Light Rail train can now be a thing of the past with the help of a new smartphone app.

Find My Train was developed by a team of four former students of ASU Venture Catalyst’s Rapid Startup School at SkySong.

Adam Mann, creator and designer of the app, said he came up with the idea because of the inaccuracy of the Metro Light Rail schedule, which caused him to either wait a while for trains or miss them.

“Because I live in the city, I wanted to make an effort to use public transportation more,” he said.

Mann tried out a few apps that were already on the market for the light rail, none of which were updated to the current Valley Metro schedules.

“I’m a tech guy and use apps,” Mann said. “So I decided to make one myself.”

Mann attended StartUp Weekend Phoenix in October, a 54-hour event that allows entrepreneurs, designers and developers to pitch business ideas.

Mann got up on stage and presented his light rail app idea with the team of Michael Witham, Al Wold and Brett Farmiloe, who all met for the first time at the event.

The team worked on a prototype for the app over the 54-hour time period and had it done by the end of the weekend.

“It was kind of a chance thing,” Mann said. “Fifty-one ideas were pitched, and they narrowed down to 10.”

Mann and his light rail app idea took second place out of 12 teams in the competition and received $15,000 in prizes, including classes at ASU Skysong’s Rapid Startup School.

The team met every Wednesday for nine weeks at Skysong to work on the app and test ideas.

Mann said he wanted the app design to be as user-friendly and simple as possible, allowing users to find train information in a single click.

“It is literally based on convenience,” he said. “My main goal was to find out when my train is coming, so I know when to leave my house.”

Witham, an ASU alumnus, said the team wanted to eliminate as many steps as possible for users to get information.

The app pulls the most current schedule information from the Valley Metro website.

The home screen of Find My Train features a before, present and after timetable of light rail trains.

Witham said the team spent considerable time researching and downloading transportation apps in other metropolitan cities.

“We looked at Chicago, New York and the BART train (in San Fransisco),” he said.

The team interviewed more than 100 light rail riders for feedback on potential app features.

Wold, who comes from a technology background, worked for ASU’s Information Technology office while attending the University.

He has worked on other apps and said the development of Find My Train was a straightforward process.

“We designed how it should look and flow first,” Wold said. “Then it was figuring out what people would want or need in an app.”

The team plans to add additional features to the app, such as schedules for bus service, support for Android devices and potentially a real-time GPS feature of the trains.

The app can be found at findmytrain.com and can be purchased for $1.99 in the iTunes store.

 

Reach the reporter at: amy.edelen@asu.edu