August 13, 2012 – The NJ Transit / Clever Commute story so far

What is the story…in a nutshell?

  1. NJ Transit (NJT) created a datafeed for use by app developers.
  2. Clever Commute built and marketed an app for commuters…using that data.
  3. When NJT found out about the app, they altered the feed…purposefully hiding one of the most valuable pieces of data.

What does Clever Commute do?
Clever Commute is an on-line service with a primary audience of suburban rail commuters (e.g., NJ Transit, LIRR, Metro North…even Amtrak). We also service riders on other modes (e.g., buses, light rail, ferries). We pioneered the concept of free crowdsourcing of transit information. We have since expanded to provide premium services for commuters as well as news organizations.
Here is a link to our About Us page.

Tell me more about Clever Commute’s premium service for commuters
The Inside Track is a suite of roughly 13 tools for commuters. To be clear: the feature which NJT pulled is just one of the many amazing things Inside Track does.

Tell me more about NJT’s change to their datafeed
First of all, it’s key that you know that at NY Penn Station, during the evening rush, commuters need to wait for their track number to be announced (via loudspeakers and TV monitors). When that track number is communicated, hundreds of people jostle and push as they fight their way down the stairs in an attempt to get a seat on their train home.
Remember that datafeed mentioned above? It contained the track number…before it was announced by NJT.
Therefore, customers of Clever Commute’s Inside Track had the opportunity to board as soon as NJT knew the track number (without waiting for  NJT to announce it).
Remember: it was NJT who gave us this data for use in our app. However, once they learned about our app, they eliminated that data from the feed.

So, there are times when NJT knows the track number…but still wants people to stand around in the waiting area?

How does Clever Commute know that this is the case?
The commuters used our service…and they raved about it.
The Founder of Clever Commute had a personal experience with it.

Was this (early-track-number) data that NJT shared 100% accurate?
No. (more below)

Did Clever Commute spend money to build the app?
Yes. We put a lot of time, effort and money into designing, building, marketing and supporting the app.

NJT says Clever Commute “manipulated [NJT’s] data“. Is that true?
NJT says you used the data to create some kind of “forecast“. Is that true?

Neither is true. All we did was publish the data they gave us…as-is.

As an app developer, did Clever Commute follow all of NJT’s rules?

Yes. All we did was take the data they gave us…and used technology to make it available to the commuters.

What is the current status of Clever Commute’s premium service – The Inside Track?
Commuters continue to sign up for The Inside Track…since it has many other features which commuters love.
As we said from the start, we continue to invest in The Inside Track.
We just launched the 13th feature for NJ Transit commuters.

NJT says the early-track-number data was not accurate. Is that true?
There were times when NJT’s data was wrong or arguably missing (for example, it appears that NJT used a default value of “track 3” when the actual early-track-number was not available).
However, Clever Commute fully disclaimed the data…and advised people to confirm their track before boarding.

NJT says the data was only correct 22% of the time. How can there be such a big disconnect between what NJT says and what Clever Commute says?
Based on what we know about NJT’s calculation, we don’t agree with their approach…and we therefore disagree with that metric.
The commuters and Clever Commute agree: this was an amazing feature.
Also, please remember that people pay for this premium service…so it’s irrational to think that they’d pay for data which is as bad as NJT claims.
It’s also irrational to think that people would upset about losing access to the data if it really were that bad.

Can you share more information?
About Clever Commute
The premium product (includes links to screenshots, and list of features)
Summary of events between NJT and Clever Commute

If you want to know more, please send a note to feedback -at- clevercommute /dot/ com or use the Contact Us feature of our home page


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