It’s only been a few days since it launched, but Red Rocket has already proven itself an essential app for any iPhone and iPod touch owners who call Toronto home and call the TTC their ride.
Using transit data provided by the excellent MyTTC.ca, Red Rocket—created by software developer George Talusan and graphic designer Hilary Street—provides a comprehensive set of TTC gadgets, from schedules to maps to service advisories to stop times to GPS-powered nearest stop location, all tucked away in a slick and smart interface. (Everything is there but the kitchen sink and a trip planner; a walkthrough and some screenshots are above, a closer look below.) Talusan tells Torontoist that he and Street made Red Rocket because they “wanted to create a fully featured transit application that appealed to a wide range of TTC riders: from commuters to people visiting the city to hardcore transit buffs.” That’s exactly what they’ve done, and, at $1.99, they’re selling it for less than the cost of a single adult ticket.
Red Rocket is not the first iPhone application of its kind, but it’s almost certainly the best: another program called iTTC has been around for more than a month now, but it’s nowhere near as robust, feature-rich, accurate, or pretty as Red Rocket is. (For what it’s worth, iTunes users seem to agree: they’ve given iTTC an average rating of one-and-a-half stars and Red Rocket four-and-a-half.)
The key to Red Rocket’s success is the data underneath it all, just as it was for Kevin Branigan and Kieran Huggins’s MyTTC. Red Rocket likely couldn’t have existed at all without the work and generosity of Branigan and Huggins: it’s their database of nearly two million stop times that Talusan and Street have built the application on top of, a database they happily surrendered even as the MyTTC creators were working on a separate iPhone app of their own (it makes sense, given that MyTTC.ca was created “out of a desire for free, open access to transit data”). Huggins admits that “it may be a while now” before MyTTC’s iPhone app is out, “especially since there seems to be no rush now”; he bought Red Rocket “very shortly after it came out” and has “been impressed so far.”
Talusan still hopes that MyTTC’s creators will make an application of their own, and that that application will include their trip planner. Its lack in Red Rocket is noticeable, but not insurmountable; with the program’s GPS, its integration with Google Maps, and its stellar search capabilities, it’s not difficult to use the program and the iPhone’s existing features combined with common sense—choose subways over surface routes, buses over streetcars, frequent schedules over infrequent ones—to go your own way. Trip planner or no, Talusan is the first to admit that Red Rocket isn’t perfect. (“There are still some kinks that need to be ironed out.”) Among those kinks: the program stalls every so often while it hunts for a route, and it resets itself to the Favourites page if you close the application and go to another program (like, say, Google Maps), rather than returning to the screen you were at before you changed programs.
But there are more than enough goodies to make nearly every TTC user gleeful. Because the program’s database is included with it, for instance, Talusan says that “you don’t need a data plan with Rogers (or even a WiFi connection) to use Red Rocket on your iPhone or iPod touch.” That means you can, say, be on the subway—sans GPS, of course—planning your next move when you get above ground. It’s just one smart feature of an application packed with them.
Thanks to reader John Henklesmith for the tip. Large image of Red Rocket’s icon courtesy of George Talusan/Red Rocket.