At your fingertips – best roller-skate route to Shatin

Finding a wad of taxpayers’ money lying around, the Hong Kong Transport Department decides to reinvent the wheel. Behold the HK-Mega-Smart-City eModeTravel-node App, which allows you to plan journeys around our bustling metropolis.

One small drawback: it omits the schedule information for Kowloon Motor Bus, CityBus and the MTR mass-transit network. I would guess these account for (pluck conservative figure from head) 75% of the routes people take around town. However, it does offer arrival times for Hong Kong Island’s rinky dink/charming trams (frequent, but still quicker to walk) plus ‘the best walking routes in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui’ (a joke coming from a bureaucracy that regards pedestrians as vermin, especially in those two districts).

The civil servants have also included helpful info on things like traffic jams and parking spaces for the small part of the population who drive private cars – who by bizarre coincidence are mostly… civil servants.

Apparently, the app’s relative uselessness is because the big transport operators’ top-secret commercially sensitive data cannot be divulged for reasons of national security.

So why bother?

It’s not as if this space-age high-tech service doesn’t already exist. Google Maps offers a user-friendly and comprehensive ‘directions’ function that virtually holds your hand and leads you to the right bus stop, MTR station, etc, complete with advice on when the next service leaves, which seats don’t have deadly pins in them, etc.

It is true that there are Hong Kong public servants devoting significant resources to actively and maliciously inflicting damage upon the once-great city. Current examples include gerrymandering (allegedly, ho ho) election boundaries, banning books, and of course stamping out thought-crimes.

But there are also whole bureaucracies dedicated merely to wasting time, space and (especially) money. We have Computer Emergency Response, Travel, Food Safety and other offices full of personnel ‘monitoring’ and re-sending already available alerts, and Tourism and other commissions absorbed in futility and pointlessness. The Transport Dept App Development Tech-Inno-hub Unit is an example of the latter. To be fair.



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7 Responses to At your fingertips – best roller-skate route to Shatin

  1. AHW says:

    The graphics on these government-designed app-thingies are always so desperately clunky (you can tell they tried so hard to be cool and hip). Your average three-year-old with an iPad could come up with something 20 times better.

  2. The bus operators’ “top secret” information (routes, timetables, bus stop locations, etc.) is all readily available on their websites. But perhaps the Transport Department hasn’t come across the word “integration” yet.

  3. HillnotPeak says:

    Maybe the government never heard of Google?

  4. Cs says:

    @HillnotPeak: As Google is banned in China, they need to find a way to make their services future proof….

  5. Ook says:

    @Cs: for future-proof, Baidu offers the same services as Google.

  6. Mary Melville says:

    Some of you may be too young to remember but back in 2001 when the dreaded Road Show was foisted on commuters, taking all pleasure out of long bus rides, commuters were promised that in return there would be real time information on bus routes broadcast both on board and at bus shelters.
    Despite repeated complaints that we were being ripped off as RS took in millions of bucks in revenue but never delivered the promised services were fobbed off by transport officials and even the Ombudsman.
    In any other jurisdiction heads would have rolled, but this is Hong Kong, the home of non accountable civil servants.
    Finally when KMB franchise came up for renewal last year its incestuous relationship with Road Show and various SHK offshoots was so blatant that RS was finally binned.
    The screens are blank and we can once again doze off or just enjoy the scenery.
    But instead of demanding restitution for almost 20 years of withholding real time info, the CY administration dedicated $80m that could have been spent on the elderly to providing the new but inadequate service.
    If TD had done its job bus shelters would have been wired up long ago and info on bus movements available on open platforms.
    Canny KMB took full advantage of TD incompetence, pocketing both the cash and ring fencing its data. The officials in charge were awarded Bauhinia medals for job well done.

  7. Stuart says:

    The citymapper app already has some live tram, train and bus arrival times integrated, KMB I think at least. I guess the government who in their high towers are expecting the companies banging down their doors to get their data included, and didn’t think of, you know, picking the phone up and asking for things.

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