Poor execution, bugs mar apps of Traffic Police and Indian Railways

Two apps, launched by the Traffic Police and Indian Railways, are put to the test. Our verdict: poor execution and bugs equal disappointment

MTP CALL
The app was launched last month by the Mumbai Traffic Police to better traffic movement. Milind Bharambe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Mumbai, said, “A traffic police personnel close to the site verifies the information.

When our tech writer tested the app at Parel, the app indicated his current location as ‘Africa’. Pic/Atul Kamble
When our tech writer tested the app at Parel, the app indicated his current location as ‘Africa’. Pic/Atul Kamble

Post verification, the control room alerts emergency services, if needed, and nearby commuters for better traffic movement.” It’s available only on Android.

Its competition
Riddlr, Traffline and Mumbai Traffic.

What worked
The good feature is live accident/incident reporting service. It allows the user to report traffic accidents, incidents and violations to the traffic police via pictures. These are then sent with GPS co-ordinates to help them locate it. But it’s going to take a while, we think, before immediate action is taken on such reporting.

On Wednesday afternoon, we reported an unauthorized parking at Parel via the app, and we are still awaiting a response. The app has a simple homepage, with options to locate the nearest traffic division and pay-and-park options as well as a list of fines for traffic violations.

What didn’t
The app doesn’t keep a record of your reporting nor does it offer options to check status. Still, we hoped, it would at least result in better response time from the Mumbai Traffic Police. But according to Bharambe, “The time of response may still be the same.”

The app offers no live traffic updates as seen in rival app Traffline, or warnings of pre-determined roadblocks and repairs. Some of the services, like the Traffic Division Locator, had malfunctioned. In fact, we stood outside the Bhoiwada Traffic Division (opposite ITC Grand Central), trying to locate the closest Traffic Division office and the app pointed us to Fort. Not Bhoiwada, Byculla, Dadar or Worli, all way closer than Fort.

Worse, users cannot add their home and work locations to the app. For some reason, when we tried, it kept showing our current location as ‘Africa’. The success of this app depends entirely on crowd sourcing, but without any real time traffic updates on map, we doubt it will get enough downloads. At the time of print, the app had managed just 100-500 downloads.

Expert speak
>> The first step would be to change the UI, and make it user-friendly, vibrant and easy to navigate.
>> Apart from the current features in Traffline, updates on PCR control van positions, police booths, hospitals as well as traffic signals, speed limits as well as congestion details would be useful and help increase traction.
>> If integrated well, the app could update users on speed limits and possibly warn in case of speed violations. Live updates from the police (and BMC) for diversions, VIP movement etc., will be particularly helpful.
— Ambika Sharma, founder Instappy.com

UTS ON MOBILE
Launched for the Western suburban line from Churchgate to Dahanu in July, and Central Railways in October, UTS (Unreserved Ticketing System) on Mobile is Suresh Prabhu’s idea of paperless ticketing minus headache.

The UTS on Mobile app had a hard time getting our GPS location in place and therefore was unable to help us book tickets. Pic/Milind Salvi
The UTS on Mobile app had a hard time getting our GPS location in place and therefore was unable to help us book tickets. Pic/Milind Salvi

Developed by CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems), it’s available for free download on Android and Windows phones.

Its competition
None.

What worked
The idea — to book an electronic unreserved suburban ticket on your phone, and not wait in queue — is great. Besides, going paperless means the Railways is thinking eco-friendly.

What didn’t
The user interface is poorly executed. Secondly, to use the app and book a ticket, you must survive a complicated process that requires you to provide your mobile number and proof of identity. When you are done with that, you need to add money to R-Wallet (Railway Wallet), and pay an extra Rs 10 as service fee.

Another rider - you must be within 30 metres to 2 km of the station. This is to keep fraudsters out of the way, but what if you decide to change your route/destination. Would you walk 30 metres away from the station to book a ticket or rather just wait in the queue? Tickets cannot be cancelled or forwarded.

Besides, the electronic ticket is valid only on Western Railway. Although you can book a suburban commute ticket on Central Railway, you are required to visit an ATVM machine and print the ticket using a code available on the ticket. Hard work? Wait, there’s more. When we managed to book a ticket, the GPS took way too long to read our location, making the effort come to nought (see video on www.mid-day.com).

We aren’t sure about the reason, but we aren’t trying this again.

Expert speak
It's complicated; it should be simpler and easy to navigate. It should have full map integration. Also, the app-ticket module should be easy to identify in UI - a good reference here is BookmyShow. It should be easy for the commuter to pay using various payment methods.

There are UI and app errors too. A strong QA (Qualitative Analysis) as well as regression test is recommended. Apart from pure ticketing, it should help with information like congestion, train timings as well as quick information on last mile connectivity.
— Ambika Sharma

mid-day tech writer Hassan M Kamal put the two apps to the test in south Mumbai

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