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Now, dial to travel

New helpline to decode public transport launches, aims to help callers move around city with ease

travel Updated: Oct 10, 2011 12:18 IST

If you are frustrated by the periodic auto and taxi strikes and the constant rise in tariffs, here's a helpline that could give you a helping hand while travelling around the city. Started by three former Tata Institute of Social Sciences students, Sandeep Kothawade (28), Pradeep Singh (28) and Ruchi Singal (25), the helpline, known as the 360Navigator, gives commuters information on public transport services in Mumbai. 

Upon dialing the number 95953 60360, those on-the-go can get accurate information on bus numbers, local train routes, timetables, travel duration, fares, distance, travel pass and more. The 9 am-to-9 pm helpline commenced operations on Dusshera day and has already started receiving calls from harried Mumbaikars.

"We came up with the idea after a visit to Saki Naka for an assignment. The trip from Deonar to Saki Naka in an auto cost us R 130 while going and barely R 80 upon return. Going by train or bus would have been cheaper but we didn't have any information about the public transport routes," says Sandeep Kothawade, co-founder of 360Navigator, adding that it was, at that moment, that he and his team members decided to come up with a service that provided information on public transport.

As part of the service, commuters can call the helpline and tell the operator their eventual destination and also mention whether they prefer to use a bus, train or a combination of both. "We then provide the caller with information on the best way to reach the venue as well as the correct fare and time that will be taken to reach there," says Kothawade. Thereafter, if the distance is less than a kilometer, the caller is told that walking is the preferred option but if it more than a kilometre, an auto is recommended. The travel duration is calculated keeping in mind traffic as well as peak or non-peak hours. There is no fee to access this service apart from the dialing cost.

The database of information has been created by sourcing information from websites and by actually calling up bus depots to check timings. The team of three also visited several locations around the city and crosschecked whether routes and timings were correct. Currently, one person mans the helpline but the team has tied up with an NGO to help them out. "We've asked the NGO to identify physically-challenged people who can look after the helpline. This will help them get gain employment as well," says Kothawade.

The helpline is currently operational only in Mumbai, but the team plans to expand it to others parts of Maharashtra as well as India. Kothawade adds, "Currently we don't have information on traffic jams in the city. In six months, we should be getting that information and give callers real-time information on routes to avoid during traffic hours." And though there's no revenue model in place now, the team aims to get advertisements for their helpline once it is successful.

New helpline to decode public transport launches, aims to help callers move around city with ease

360 Navigator helps figure:
Bus numbers and bus routes Local train routes Bus and train timetables Estimated duration of travel to reach a destination, (calculated on the basis of traffic and time of travel) Fares from a place to another Distance between places Travel passes applicable Railway mega-blocks Whether selected location is within walking distance or not Combination options of autos/taxis, trains and buses to reach a venue