Moovit: The App That Knows When the Next Bus Is Coming

Tired of chasing buses and watching them disappear? Or discovering, too late, that there are delays due to obstacles in the road? Then Moovit is the app for you.

Eliahu Hershkovitz

It's so frustrating to run for a bus - and watch it disappear down the road. Enter Moovit, the app that tells people when the bus is coming; which bus they can take; alternative buses they can take; and if there are any obstacles on the road. It even warns of impediments, such as traffic jams or crowded buses, en route and signals when the passenger has reached his stop.

“There’s always an element of uncertainty when people use public transportation,” says Moovit marketing director Itay Gil. “Our goal is to reduce the uncertainty."

There are seven billion people in the world and one billion cars — meaning, there is a huge population that doesn’t know when their bus is going to come, he says.

Moovit for bus users is rather like the navigation app Waze for drivers. You enter a route and Waze directs you via the shortest route, based on real-time information. The route factors in obstacles that could slow travel, such as accidents. Not coincidentally, Uri Levine, one of Waze's three founders is on Moovit’s board.

“We’ll tell you the quickest way based on the route conditions,” says Gil. “If a bus is late, we’ll recommend that you take a different one. We also provide information about the station’s environment, such as different buses that go to the same station or ones nearby.” Moovit also provides information about walking routes to and from the bus stop.

Moovit even provides information such as when a bus route is cancelled or changes. It's a great app not only for tourists but for locals who use public transportation every day, says Gil.

Layers of information

Moovit information is layered. The first layer is static information: railway and bus stations, the various lines and their routes.

The next layer is information about the location of buses that it receives in real time, based on crowdsourcing, from GPS devices installed on the buses. Moovit also asks users questions about crowding on lines and allows them to rank lines.

Moovit was established in 2011 and launched its application for iPhone and Android in March 2012. The app’s beta version, directed at the Israeli market, was a resounding success, says Gil: tens of thousands of users downloaded the app in the first month. By now it has more than a million users. Most users are younger than 45.

Moovit’s local success emboldened it to go global. Now it has 12 million users in more than 400 cities in 40 countries, most recently in Asia too.

To add a city, Moovit needs access to information on the local public-transportation system. it needs to support the local language and create avenues of communication with the local users.

Since its establishment Moovit has raised $31.5 million, not bad for an apps company, which relieves it of immediate pressure to find ways to make money. It has an eye on competition, including by Google Maps, but notes that it's the only crowdsourced app of its kind, giving it a real-time edge. It means to continue expanding: a lot of people are still chasing buses around the world, and watching them drive away.