Last night, taking a walk in the park, I sat down on a bench and looked at all the iPhone apps that have to do with Navigation. One that caught my eye was PDX Bus, which takes TriMet data and makes it accessible in a nice easy-to-use interface. Users can type in a stop ID, browse stops on a per-MAX line and per-bus basis, with each stop giving users the estimated time of arrival and, tapping through to the individual train or bus, users have the option to show the location on a Google Map of where that vehicle is currently located. The following screenshot shows the Library/SW 9th MAX station with a train arriving in 7 minutes from the time I took the screenshot. Clicking the icon in the bottom right-hand corner gets users the option to find the train on a map.
Now, as a Canadian not (yet?) living in Portland, Oregon, at the moment, it was a little difficult to verify any of the information that the app obtains from the TriMet data store. In fact, all my research leads me to believe that data roaming will not be cheap when I visit PDX. As the app relies on information over the Internet, it'll probably take finding a free wi-fi spot to get the latest info on MAX trains, streetcars and buses while traveling.
My interest in the app stems from both the fact that I have an iPhone 3G and that TransLink, Vancouver, B.C.'s transportation authority has commissioned an iPhone app, not-yet-released but demoed at a recent MobileCamp Vancouver. I'm looking forward to such an app (which I understand will be a wrapper for a web app using TransLink's data) and urge the developers to take a look at PDX Bus for inspiration. The PDX Bus app itself could use a little more GPS integration (for example, what are upcoming transit options for stops near me?).
Check out the PDX Bus blog and the the brief announcement by the developer. There's also Matt King's TriMet Tracker iPhone-friendly website for similar information.