Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/10/tfl_reroute_app_groupon/

Keep out of the Olympics' way, earn a haircut from TfL app

Coupons to make Londoners ditch the train for trainers

By Anna Leach

Posted in Phones, 10th May 2012 10:16 GMT

In the race to get London's road and tube network ready for the Olympics, Transport for London has endorsed a new app called re:route: a map app with reward vouchers.

The idea is that Re:Route (on iTunes here) plans your journeys in the capital and then rewards you for taking low-carbon, calorie-burning and overburdened-public-transport-avoiding route options by dishing out vouchers.

The rewards include coupons for haircuts and spa days. Made by Groupon-for-do-gooders startup Recyclebank, the app uses TfL data and has been officially endorsed by TfL.

ReRoute app, screengrab iTunes

But £5 off M&S vouchers aside, the app has a few limitations and some teething problems that make it less useful than it could be.

Routes, but no route-planning

It's a great idea for a transport app to draw in all forms of transport, but critically for a map app, it doesn't give specific routes. It will show you the start and end points of, say, a cycle journey – but not the bits in between. A spokesperson from Recyclebank explained that it's just not a route-planning app.

The app intentionally doesn't ask for your location either, a decision which is of course better for privacy, but worse for finding your way around – though there's always Google Maps.

Re:Route sucks in travel recommendations from the Transport for London API, using the same data that TFL's web-based journey planner does. However, it doesn't yet include buses – although that data will be included before the Olympics. Until it does, some of the routes don't seem to make much sense.

While the app does get a bit creative, some of the routes are kind of weird: for example, one "Burn Calories" route from Soho to south London suggested getting on the tube for one single stop and then getting on a bike... instead of just getting on a bike.

An additional teething problem was that the app seemed to have some trouble logging short journeys. Despite jabbing the screen for all 10 minutes of a short low-carbon journey (a walk to the shops), the app failed to register where I was, where I was going, or when I arrived. Hitting Start Route had no discernible impact. We've been assured that this is a problem with short journeys and is something that the devs are looking into.

A few updates and the addition of bus info could probably fix most of these things. But currently it's a bit of a white elephant of a piece of software, though worth playing around with if you have a thing for vouchers and don't mind meandering about London, logging your trips, to clock up goodie points.

Re:Route will be available on Android just before the Olympics too. ®