People helping people as they get from here to there

Summary of events between NJ Transit and Clever Commute

Summary: NJ Transit provides technologists the tools to build their own apps using a NJT datafeed (“API”).
Clever Commute invested its resources to build such an app. When NJT learned about it, they contacted us to say that they disapprove of what we did…and subsequently changed the feed and removed a key feature of the product we have built and sold.

More Detail 

  • NJTransit has made available the technology which gives app developers real-time access to details of train departures
    (track number, destination, status, etc)
  • One of the pieces of data published via NJ Transit’s technology is a previously-unseen “field” which sometimes show the track number prior to it being announced or displayed via NJT’s proprietary tools.
    • NJT and Clever Commute agree that the data in this field is not 100% accurate.
    • NJT and Clever Commute disagree on the scale/scope and impact of the point above
      (e.g., “how bad is the data?”…and “what are the ramifications of making this data available?”)
  • With that said: in the course of building its Inside Track product
    • Clever Commute adhered to all of NJT’s published policies for developers
    • UPDATE: Contrary to what NJT has publicly said, we did NOT “manipulate NJ TRANSIT data to make these inaccurate forecasts”
      The data we share with customers comes DIRECTLY  from NJT. No manipulation. No forecast.
    • Clever Commute invested its time and money to build an app which makes this new field available to commuters…and customers have embraced this product
      Here is a link to feedback which Clever Commute has received from the end-users
  • When NJT learned that Clever Commute is making this NJT-provided data available to commuters, they took steps to alter their feed…with the sole intention of hiding the previously-unseen “early track-number” (from ALL developers…not just Clever Commute)
  • Details:
    • NJT and Clever Commute had a phone call (highlights below).
    • Clever Commute asked “how can we test NJT’s proposed changes before it impacts our paid clients?”
    • NJT commits to giving Clever Commute a confirmed implementation date and will provide us time for us to test out the new feed before it is implemented.
    • However, over two months elapse…with no further action from NJT or communication about the topic.
    • Then, with no direct notification, NJT changed the feed and removed the field.

Here is additional information and context regarding the NJT/Clever Commute conversation (what we discussed during our meeting)

(1) NJT is concerned about the potential burden to their customer service team (e.g., if commuters call NJT for support issues related to the Clever Commute product) 

Clever Commute response:

  • We offer to add additional disclaimers to our app to further clarify that we are not affiliated with NJT, and to remind people to contact CC (not NJT) with any app-related issues.
  • We offer NJT 24×7 access to the Clever Commute support organization in order to facilitate real-time resolution of any issues which may occur.

(2) NJT stated that the track-number data is too inaccurate to be reliably used

Clever Commute response:

  • We encourage commuters to use the datafeed field as one of several tools as they seek avoid the crush of the crowd when track numbers are announced. Commuters gladly tolerate the isolated anomalies they see…in exchange for the advance notice they may receive.
  • Passengers are raving about this service…and they all know to verify trains before boarding.

(3) NJT stated safety concerns (platforms are “hot in the summer…and cold in the winter”)

Clever Commute response:

  • We share NJT’s concern for the passengers.
  • We expect that in those cases where the track data from NJT is wrong, the commuter will know immediately, and will return to the waiting area.
  • NJT should explore measures beyond “wait-for-announcement” if they truly want to keep passengers off the platforms until they are given the official boarding announcement.

Summary

  • NJT, Clever Commute and the commuters all know that the contents of the feed is not 100% accurate.
  • However, Clever Commute feels that the commuters are rational consumers who place value on the opportunity to learn that the train they seek is already in the station…and ready for passengers.