The Grand Public Transit App Challenge

One of my workmates took on the the Grand Public Transport Challenge for Munich last weekend. The Challenge – that is visiting all train stations of the Munich S-Bahn and U-Bahn public transit network in 24h. I think he took an extra 2h hours, which in the end, is still a remarkable achievement. I am pretty sure he could have made it in less than 24h though if he had been supported by the App that is still missing. So today, I am calling for the Grand Public Transit App Challenge. The challenge actually consists of two parts.

  1. The first part is for the developers. Build an app that provides real time traffic information and supports users to navigate through the whole public transit network of a city in the shortest time possible. And by support, I mean – real support. Not just showing departure times or live traffic information. Actually calculating the „best“ possible route for users in real-time based on real-time information. Note that I am not a developer, so forgive me if I may ignore theories on computer science and algorithms that say that it is not possible… – I believe in you – you can make it work – somehow! Just do the next best thing to perfect then. Start by limiting usage of the public transport network to trains. Once you have worked it out, you can switch to advanced mode by extending the public transport network to busses as well. If you want to make it super-hard, cycling is also allowed. So you can bike between stations as well. Just make sure that you only take bikes on trains during times when it is actually allowed to take them. In some cities, bikes are not allowed during rush hours.
  2. The second part is for the freaks. Using the app(s) provided by our developers, visit all the train stations in a city in the shortest time possible. In some cities, 24h may not be enough. There is a bit of chance in this, since public transport is … well – not 100% reliable. But hey, that’s part of the challenge and part of the fun you’ll get out of being part of this.


  • Of course, developers can also take part in the second part of the challenge and non-technical freaks who want to focus on the second part of the challenge are not excluded from the first part – although they will have a much harder time here I expect…
  • You need to provide some kind of proof that you’ve actually been at each of the train stations within your timeframe. So the Apps should track your movements and/or enable you to take photographs at each station.
  • Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian-Ovi-Nokia-MeeGo-whatever-it-is-called… all ok.
  • Yes, you can sleep on the trains – just don’t forget to track where you’ve been.
  • There is a special prize for the least kilometers travelled
  • There is also a special prize for the fewest additional station visits
  • There is another special prize for visiting all stations by bike only
  • Not sure if we should do a special prize for most ticket controls that you were involved in
  • And yet another special prize for the cheapest travel fare which is not a flatrate ticket.
  • Do not cheat – which is the same as not being evil – but I guess you already knew that.

If you can develop the Grand Public Transit App for a city, the city should also get a prize for Open Data provision.

To get you started, here are some news for your motivation. Today, Google announced live public transit data for Google Maps in a few cities. Also have a look at Stefan Wehrmeyer’s great Transit Pulse map that I came across reading an interview he gave recently.

So what is the Grand Public Transit App Challenge prize? At this stage, fame, glory, personal satisfaction and at least myself being really impressed. Anyone interested in sponsoring the challenge with more than that, please get in touch.

Good luck. May data, code and dedication be with you!

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