TRAFI’s mega launches in the US

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Emerging market specialist scaling new horizons- views from India
TRAFI, the international public transport app that helps you plan your city journeys based on a real-time data, launched today in 5 major US cities.

TRAFI, the free public transport app that helps commuters find the best public transport route and shows the movement of shuttles and trains live, opens new borders as it expands in the USA today. Starting with the metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston TRAFI will offer its complete overview of public transport options including real-time solutions.

“AT TRAFI we love challenges: with our technology and local partners we were able to improve transit information and help commuters take better decisions in the most complex cities like Jakarta, Mumbai, São Paulo or Moscow.

With numerous requests from our fans worldwide, we are happy to provide the most accurate transit data and unique app features here in the US. This is just the beginning as we will continue to expand to new markets.” said MartynasGudonavičius, CEO of TRAFI.

The US opens up newer horizons for TRAFI. As a learning organisation, we are venturing into a market where public transport is scant and almost ashamedly utilitarian. For people who love their cars- a statement equally true for certain classes in segregated Indian cities- TRAFI’s attempt at popularising the idea of leaving that important (and sometimes only!) part of one’s identity -Car- will be a real challenge, and learning from the US will guide us in similar contexts.

The US metropolitan areas we have attempted as a team are huge. We incorporated an unprecedented number of 50 different services in Los Angeles Metropolitan Region (more than 60 towns of 50K+ population), all interconnecting with the hub of the downtown LA, building a truly dense, exhaustive and multimodal network in the process. This sure is learning for us to see similar patterns in other countries, bypassing the limiting boundaries of urban, peri-urban and suburban town areas and essentially covering the way masses are moving/can move in reality.

The low incidence of public transport use in the US cities is a challenge to us, and we will be looking for user groups e.g. bicycle riders who can achieve complementarity with public transport to not only expand our user base but also the overall modal share of public transport and non-motorized transport.

The strongly set ethnic and area level diversity in the US cities will also help us understand user patterns in newer ways, beyond the matrices of age, education and sex, and will help us serve such diverse groups better, across the globe.

Finally, we have achieved the feat of top 5 US city launches with minimal resources and an unprecedented speed. Things can only go faster, more efficient and more impactful from here on.

The India Experience:

We in India, started another era in the growth of TRAFI in early 2016, following up from the emerging market launches in Brazil and Russia, respectively. As the first major expansion into Asia, and particularly the messier South Asia, we muddled through layers of information asymmetry, lack of transparency, unstructured data formats, and in some incidences the need to build data from ground up!

We have toiled through lack of GPS data and for that matter patchy data networks in general and have developed solutions that still make us the best with the given constraints. The India experience was a test for our offline data and offline route search- a relevant solution for people on unconventional operators in the USA as well! We found that sometimes official sources need to be complemented or completely replaced with crowdsourcing to arrive at the truest picture, an approach that allows us now to capture even the most technologically nascent modes.

The results have been great. We have consistently grown users here and more importantly people trust our results, despite our challenges in getting real-time data- the core strength of TRAFI elsewhere. This has been achieved via a mix of methods; we have triangulated and reconfirmed data at every stage. The data is constantly updated and so are our news and information feeds to alert users of the plentiful disruptions and day-to-day challenges of our cities.

We were well updated to inform Bangalore of an extension to their metro line; we told Pune about the ever expanding bus routes, we are constantly updating Mumbai on the disruptions due to the derailment in the otherwise perfect service of the suburban rail and are doing such optimizations every hour, every day, without fail. In fact, our agility in improving data with around 100 verified changes to our routes/stations across Indian cities every month has also been a factor in TRAFI being chosen as the best Travel Planner for public transport during the 2016 Olympic Games by Rio’s CidadeOlímpica!

Indian remains a frugal innovation context for TRAFI. Our expansion in the coming months, in some cases to smaller cities in newer parts of the Indian subcontinent, will only create new learning opportunities for TRAFI.  In the truest TRAFI tradition, we always share such learnings and the resulting new tools – both app and backend/data improvement ones-  become available across all geographies of TRAFI.

TRAFI is growing, and World – we are coming for you!

TRAFI, the international public transport app that helps you plan your city journeys based on a real-time data, launched today in 5 major US cities.

TRAFI, the free public transport app that helps commuters find the best public transport route and shows the movement of shuttles and trains live, opens new borders as it expands in the USA today. Starting with the metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston TRAFI will offer its complete overview of public transport options including real-time solutions.

“AT TRAFI we love challenges: with our technology and local partners we were able to improve transit information and help commuters take better decisions in the most complex cities like Jakarta, Mumbai, São Paulo or Moscow.

With numerous requests from our fans worldwide, we are happy to provide the most accurate transit data and unique app features here in the US. This is just the beginning as we will continue to expand to new markets.” said MartynasGudonavičius, CEO of TRAFI.

Introducing TRAFI: TRAFI has its origins in Vilnius, the capital of the baltic country of Lithuania, as a web portal-MaršrutaiLietuvoje- that went viral in early 2010s.

The team had bigger plans though. They soon outgrew the city of current population of 400k, naturally expanding to the balticcousin-Latvia in 2013, largely fuelled by the momentum given by almost 50% penetration in their home market population. TRAFI had found a formula- in a part of the world where public transport runs on schedules, is open with its data and has the all important real-time information, TRAFI could do wonders with its algorithms, user experience suites and attention to detail what no one had achieved in the past, becoming the undisputed market leader.
The question however was whether it was enough? Were the Baltic states the final frontier for TRAFI? Was a northward expansion into Scandinavia with even more open data and precision the way to go, or was the charm of UK and continental Europe enough to justify going against the giants and using the precious little initial funding (a seed round of US$ 500k) we had? Or maybe in the South and East where the Soviet USSR influenced Eastern Europe with its long running public transport systems was a safe bet? We did none of those and instead, in 2014, chose to move well south into the confluence of Europe and Asia- Istanbul in Turkey, this is. Istanbul and other Turkish cities shook our fundamentals, we suddenly were in a place where we had to encounter messier data, more than 8 different modes, varied public agencies with their inherent idiosyncrasies, a semi penetrable division in the form of the massive bosphorous and a population and scale that was unprecedented in the then history of TRAFI. TRAFI braved through such odds by sticking to its values of non-compromise on accuracy of data, giving back to the host cities, employing the best tools in the market to deliver suggestions and above all the sprit to learn and adapt as we grow. Turkey’s success helped TRAFI leapfrog into Estonia and Brazil, and by the end of the year we were leading player in the entirety of Baltics and Turkey, featured in the ‘best apps of 2014’ by Apple’s app store in Turkey.

Investor confidence was high and 2015 got us a Series A funding of US$ 6.5 M, and with it we followed our momentum from Brazil into Russia.

The India Experience: The readers must be seeing the pattern here. Of course Brazil and Russia were followed by India in the now well regarded sequence of BRICS economies.

We in India, started a new era in the growth of TRAFI in early 2016, following up from the emerging market launches in Brazil and Russia, respectively. As the first major expansion into Asia, and particularly the messier South Asia, we muddled through layers of information asymmetry, lack of transparency, unstructured data formats, and in some incidences the need to build data from ground up!
We have toiled through lack of GPS data and for that matter patchy data networks in general and have developed solutions that still make us the best with the given constraints. The India experience was a test for our offline data and offline route search- a relevant solution for people on unconventional operators in the USA as well! We found that sometimes official sources need to be complemented or completely replaced with crowdsourcing to arrive at the truest picture, an approach that allows us now to capture even the most technologically nascent modes.
TRAFI’s offline route search is a boon when network is missing
The results have been great. We have consistently grown users in India and more importantly people trust our results, despite our challenges in getting real-time data- the core strength of TRAFI elsewhere. This has been achieved via a mix of methods; we have triangulated and reconfirmed data at every stage. The data is constantly updated and so are our news and information feeds to alert users of the plentiful disruptions and day-to-day challenges of our cities.
We were well updated to inform Bangalore of an extension to their metro line; we told Pune about the ever expanding bus routes, we are constantly updating Mumbai on the disruptions due to the derailment in the otherwise perfect service of the suburban rail and are doing such optimizations every hour, every day, without fail. In fact, our agility in improving data with around 100 verified changes to our routes/stations across Indian cities every month has also been a factor in TRAFI being chosen as the best Travel Planner for public transport during the 2016 Olympic Games by Rio’s CidadeOlímpica!
Indian remains a frugal innovation context for TRAFI. Our expansion in the coming months, in some cases to smaller cities in newer parts of the Indian subcontinent, will only create new learning opportunities for TRAFI. In the truest TRAFI tradition, we always share such learnings and the resulting new tools — both app and backend/data improvement ones- become available across all geographies of TRAFI.
What comes next:
The US opens up newer horizons for TRAFI. As a learning organisation, we are venturing into a market where public transport is scant and almost ashamedly utilitarian. For people who love their cars- a statement equally true for certain classes in segregated Indian cities- TRAFI’s attempt at popularising the idea of leaving that important (and sometimes only!) part of one’s identity -Car- will be a real challenge, and learning from the US will guide us in similar contexts.
The US metropolitan areas we have attempted as a team are huge. We incorporated an unprecedented number of 50 different services in Los Angeles Metropolitan Region (more than 60 towns of 50K+ population), all interconnecting with the hub of the downtown LA, building a truly dense, exhaustive and multimodal network in the process. This sure is learning for us to see similar patterns in other countries, bypassing the limiting boundaries of urban, peri-urban and suburban town areas and essentially covering the way masses are moving/can move in reality.
TRAFI finally lands in the Manhattan, having made a difference in the emerging market economies of the world
The low incidence of public transport use in the US cities is a challenge to us, and we will be looking for user groups e.g. bicycle riders who can achieve complementarity with public transport to not only expand our user base but also the overall modal share of public transport and non-motorized transport as a give back to our host societies.
The strongly set ethnic and area level diversity in the US cities will also help us understand user patterns in newer ways, beyond the matrices of age, education and sex, and will help us serve such diverse groups better, across the globe.
Finally, we have achieved the feat of top 5 US city launches with minimal resources and an unprecedented speed. Things can only go faster, more efficient and more impactful from here on.
The India Experience:
TRAFI is growing, and World — we are coming for you!
About the author: Rajarshi Rakesh Sahai is the India country manager for TRAFI and a smart cities consultant. He has experience in Urban Development, Policy Planning, Strategy, Energy Efficiency, Transport and Housing sectors. His qualifications come from top intuitions including LSE (UK), UCL (UK), KTH (Sweden), Joensuu (Finland), and ISB(India). His work has taken him to various cities as advisor for agencies like ADB, DFID, EU, Infosys, and various government and private sector institutions.