CMU spinoff gets Dept. of Transportation grant for Tiramisu transit app
The app that has helped residents navigate the region's ever-changing bus schedules has gotten the financial boost needed to move across the country.
Tiramisu Transit LLC, the Carnegie Mellon University spinoff company that uses crowdsourcing and GPS technology to track Port Authority of Allegheny County and CMU transit trips, has received $102,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The grant, which comes from the department's Federal Transit Administration and its Research and Innovative Technology Administration, will go toward researching sustainable business models to bring the technology to the commercial market.
The free app, available for iPhone and Android phones, uses GPS, a transit agency's schedule and real-time reports from bus riders to determine the quickest trips and closest bus or train routes for users. Users aboard buses also can use Tiramisu to indicate how many seats are on a bus, to discuss problems with the trip and share advice with other users.
CMU senior systems scientist Anthony Tomasic and associate professor John Zimmerman, members of the team that created Tiramisu, said they are considering including advertising in updated versions of the app. The team also is researching a more open communications format that would allow users who don't share GPS traces once they board buses to communicate with the transit agencies and other users.
"We'll offer a chat feature to allow transit service to push out messages to be attached to a route or an individual stop," said Mr. Tomasic.
The app's expansion is a bonus for the Port Authority, according to spokesman Jim Ritchie. Since the app's launch last summer, the feedback from more than 30,000 users has been positive.
"We find from riders that Tiramisu and other third party apps are helpful, they like them and would like to see more of them," he said.
Even if the Port Authority implements drastic planned cuts that would eliminate 46 bus routes and reduce service to the remaining 56 routes, Mr. Tomasic and Mr. Zimmerman said the app is prepared for the change.
"Users aren't affected, they would just start seeing the new schedules," said Mr. Zimmerman.
The team is in discussions to take Tiramisu to several regions outside of the state, but could not say for certain when that would happen.
Tiramisu -- Italian for "pick me up" -- was developed by researchers within the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation, a federally-funded joint initiative between CMU, the University of Buffalo and State University of New York. It is also supported through CMU's Traffic21 initiative, a plan to implement "intelligent transportation system" technology within the region's transportation agencies.
First Published June 29, 2012 12:00 am