Rapid Penang rides? There’s an app for that! (now available)

Update: The Rapid Penang app is now available at this link: http://itunes.apple.com/my/app/rapid-penang-mobile-icis/id430816867?mt=8

TRANSIT noted some very interesting articles from up in Penang that we thought would interest you.

First, for the benefit of customers, RapidPenang has launched their iPlanner application for Apple iPhone and iPad products. The item will be available for free download from the Apple iTunes “App Store” and TRANSIT will post the link as soon as it is uploaded.

TRANSIT also notes that RapidPenang expects to carry 48 million riders next year once the 200 new buses arrive at the end of this year. 60 of the 200 buses will be double decker buses which will expand the passenger capacity of the fleet while reducing operational costs. TRANSIT is looking forward to seeing the buses on the roads of Penang and we will share any info that we have with you about the buses.

Outgoing Rapid Penang CEO Azhar Ahmad says among his challenges in transforming public transport in the state was getting the authorities to work in tandem with Rapid Penang. Image courtesy of NST.

Finally, TRANSIT notes that Azhar Ahmad, CEO of RapidPenang, made his farewells yesterday. Azhar has been appointed the Chief Operating Officer of the Land Public Transport Commission, filling the position left by Shahril Mokhtar, who was appointed Managing Director of Prasarana in September 2010.

 

TRANSIT thanks Azhar for 4 years of effort to improve public transport in Penang. We expect that he will be sorely missed there. And we wish him the best of luck with the challenge of revamping the bus system in Malaysia through his position with SPAD.

Read an interview with Azhar after the jump


Innovative ideas drive buses in Penang
(NST, 5 April 2011)

GEORGE TOWN: Rapid Penang chief executive officer Azhar Ahmad has been appointed chief operating officer of the National Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) effective next month.

Azhar is a tough nut in public transport, having endured physical threats and a strike by bus drivers days after reporting to work with Rapid Penang four years ago.

Azhar is widely regarded as the man who transformed the pathetic public bus services in Penang into what it is today.

Rapid Penang buses are now the preferred mode of public transport, registering about 35 million in annual ridership, and still growing.

The emergence of Rapid Penang buses here also spelled the end of the pajak (lease) system, which saw buses hired out to individuals who failed to provide efficient and reliable service to commuters here.

In an exclusive interview with the New Straits Times, Azhar outlined the challenges he faced after the Federal Government pumped in RM200 million to introduce 150 new buses in 2007 to improve the public bus services here.

“It was not easy as we had to face many challenges from bus operators… there were physical threats, sabotage and many other issues involving our own drivers.

“However, we took on all these challenges head-on and started transforming the mindset of our drivers to take pride in their work.

“We changed their title from bus drivers to captains to create a more professional outlook for them, besides charting a clear career growth opportunity that made them look forward to giving their best,” he said, adding that the establishment of the Rapid Penang Academy that followed soon after was instrumental in churning out a dedicated, professional and committed workforce.

Azhar said the academy had seen more than 600 cadets now working as bus captains serving various routes on the island and mainland.

“We started out with just 350 employees, now we have 1,100 workers. Rapid Penang is expected to provide jobs for some 2,000 people in years to come.”

Rapid Penang is set to undergo further growth as the Federal Government has pumped in an additional RM120 million to introduce another 200 buses which are set to hit the roads here soon.

Azhar attributed Rapid Penang’s success, from a meagre three million ridership in 2007 to 35 million today, to the many innovative ideas introduced on its buses.

Rapid Penang was the first in the country to use the Global Positioning System to track its fleet of buses through an Intelligent Computer Information System (ICIS). The ICIS provides commuters with real-time information, getting an accurate estimate of the arrival time of each bus.

Rapid Penang buses plying certain routes are also equipped with WiFi to enable users to surf the Internet free.

“These are revolutionary services in the local transport industry. With further innovation, we hope to see our ridership figures increase by 20 to 30 per cent annually,” he said, adding that Rapid Penang was aiming to get more white-collar workers to commute by public buses.

Rapid Penang also created a first by leveraging its services with community airline Firefly, providing free shuttle bus services to airline passengers arriving here daily. The passengers need only show their boarding pass.

On the challenges he faced in the four years with Rapid Penang, Azhar said: “Getting the various authorities to work in tandem with Rapid Penang to provide an efficient, reliable and comfortable bus service.

“Public transport is not just about the hardware, but must also be completed with the necessary infrastructure, like bus terminals and shelters.

“The state authorities should also emulate our neighbouring country where such terminals are provided at nominal rates. Here, we are forced to pay market rates although public transport should be a priority of the administration.”

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15 thoughts on “Rapid Penang rides? There’s an app for that! (now available)”

  1. i hv downloaded the app and frankly am very disappointed with it.

    suggestions that the app needs to hv at the very least
    i) integration with Google Map to show where is the nearest bus stop and landmark. it is currently only showing landmarks – eg Cititel
    ii) at the very least provide phone numbers to call for taxi. sometimes if the poor person is sitting at the bus stop for ages and the bus does not arrive, can call for a cab
    iii) whilst i don’t expect the timing of the next bus to be shown, it can also at least show how to get to the next stop or how to plan for a journey

    whilst the CEO may view this as his swansong and perhaps he may hv contributed a lot, but from an iphone user i don’t see much that the app has to offer

    1. @William

      Thanks for your feedback. You can email the former CEO directly and tell him what you think. His address is azhar@rapidpg.com.my

      Alternatively, you can contact RapidPenang directly or through their twitter feed @rapidpg

      By the way, please post the link to the RapidPenang iPlanner app here.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  2. i immediately downloaded the rapid pg app after reading abt this. sad to say, it is nothing more than a directory and not useful at all to plan a trip as an iphone app

    it lacks
    1) timing of next bus. if rapid penang deploys GPS, they hv the data of the next bus to come. such information is widely available here in singapore
    2) location of bus stop. assuming that the person to take the bus is not familiar of the nearest location, this can be useful
    3) planning of trip. if rapid penang has the trips of all their buses in their schedule, and able to locate the user, they can easily advise of which bus to take FROM where TO where and the fare necessary
    4) phone number to call for cab if all fails.

    Penang Rapid got ripped off by eSource Technology?

  3. you can see the visuals of the iphone app for rapid pg here.

    http://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/rapid-penang/id381360340?mt=8

    as you can see or try with an iphone, there is no timing being shown of next bus, no location tracking
    (to find nearest bus stop), no calling feature.

    compare this with apps in singapore

    check timing of next bus
    http://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/sg-nextbus/id361404839?mt=8

    http://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/bus-sg/id340744554?mt=8

    OR this to plan your trip and journey

    http://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/whereto-sg/id395982564?mt=8

    OR this to book a cab when all fails
    http://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/comfortdelgro-taxi-booking/id349091682?mt=8

    1. Hi William

      We contacted RapidPenang using their twitter feed and they stated that this is not the app they launched recently.

      We will keep the site updated.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  4. i think i know why – in the rush for press release b4 he goes off in his swan song, they announce an app “to be released” by the name of “Rapid Penang iPlanner” b4 it is out (it takes normally a few days to clear iTunes store) http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=576570

    there is an existing app called “Rapid Penang” by esource technology with the static pages like i shown in the URL. it looks like a rapid pg page, has everything in the corporate colors, with even copyright of Rapid Penang Sdn Bhd.

    come Monday, either Rapid Penang app will hv to changed to be Rapid Penang iPlanner or a lot of iphone users will be directed to the Rapid Penang app first when they search in itunes. quite a PR disaster i would think.

    anyway i stand to be corrected as the more important thing here is how would it work when it is launched on monday. my apologies 🙂

    1. @William

      This is quite possible – PR for the sake of PR, forgetting that the end user is the most important.

      We haven’t been given an opportunity to beta test the app, so everything is up in the air until the app is finally launched.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  5. i think rapidpenang/rapidkl can do a lot more better by putting their gps bus data out in the open. this will allow other independent developer to create better apps for rapidkl, for free.

    putting a lot more data out in the open will also help everybody better…

    1. Hi Erwin

      Thanks for your comment – we see a similar goal for open data and open payment systems. RapidPenang has expressed interest in sharing some of their GPS data with us, but an Open Data policy will take time to develop.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  6. i hv downloaded the app and tried it out. some 2 cents on this
    1) they hv included a timing showing on when the next bus to arrive. unfortunately i can’t verify how accurate this is. that is a plus point
    2) there is this feature for trip planning. which is good. another plus point

    some gripes – the navigation for the app sucks.
    normally for an iphone app due to its small screen, u want to put the main features at the bottom of the screen or a Home icon or sthg like that so u can navigate quickly to services that u want. the navigation in this app is like going through a maze

    some features like pocket map can be chucked away. it does not allow zooming by double tap nor does it hv much purpose. neither is bus routes necessary. u don’t need to find out what bus goes where.

    in my opinion, the places of interest does not serve much of a purpose either. it can be another iphone app but not for a transit app

    That said, i don’t see ppl leaving their cars at home just now b/cos RapidPg got an iphone app. for a multi modal public transit, there has to be a seamless (or at least less painful way) of getting from Point A to Point B. the Pg govt has introduced a new service called Best Park & Ride. Which is good. now how to integrate btw Rapid Pg bus routes with this?

    Secondly, bus routes in Pg largely ends at Jetty. now the ferry service in Pg is a sad looking service. yet the contribution to alleviate traffic jam is underrated. in 2010, it carries 1,034,568 cars. that is abt around 2500++ cars removed from the roads every day (if i got my calculations right). yet ppl would not use the ferry unless they know when 1 will arrive. to put a GPS on every ferry etc is going to be an expensive endeavour. question is how to let ppl know and plan their schedule in using public transport so that they would rather leave their cars at home

    all in all, pretty decent effort for a first version

  7. Transit, not sure if u know abt this but for Google Map, they can plan out for you as well the ways to transit from Point A to Point B. e.g. if i want to go from Itam to Bayan Lepas. The google map would show the route giving me option to either drive ther, walk there, or take a transit here being a bus.but to do that, they need the data to feed into their Google Maps. The Singapore LTA did that here in 2009. Do pls share this with Msian public transportation agencies if they are not yet aware, as by doing so we can give options to transit users. this is different from an iphone app for Rapid Pg bcos not everyone has an iPhone, but definitely everyone is using Google

    http://maps.google.com/help/maps/transit/partners/participate.html

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