$13,000 small price to pay, says city official

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Calgary motorists may be able to turn to their smartphones to make commuting less of a headache this winter.

The city launched a new application for mobile devices on Dec. 5 that provides real-time information on road conditions, plow routes and traffic cameras. It also sends updates on snow route parking bans.

Shuttle driver Matt Gillard said he expects the app to be very useful, especially during rush hour.

“It makes it really easy to plan a route,” he said.

Gillard added he’s downloaded the app onto two other iPads owned by the car dealership he works at. It’s the fifth mobile app released by the city so far, the other four of which can also be downloaded from iTunes.

The road conditions app may also be good news for winter cycling enthusiasts. BikeBike owner Sean Carter downloaded it earlier this week, and hopes it eases his trek home on 14th Avenue SW.

“I hope it works out,” Carter said. “It’d be nice to see.”

He said road conditions are often a guessing game: “You just go for it. That is the reality of winter cycling in Calgary.”

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The City of Calgary’s new road conditions mobile application was designed to alert drivers about upcoming road closures and snow route parking bans, although the distracted driving law could prevent users from being able to use its funtions when most required.
Photo courtesy of: The City of Calgary
The application has been in the works for over a year and was developed from the online road conditions map, said Tyler Pedrotti, city marketing advisor. He said most of the work was done in-house, with $13,000 being paid to a third-party developer.

“That’s a small price to pay for having a great snow control program here for this winter,” said Pedrotti.

Currently, the application only works on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, and is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. However, Pedrotti said it might be available to Android and BlackBerry users within weeks.

According to past research, Pedrotti said over 50 per cent of Canadians are expected to own a smartphone by 2014. That number could be much higher locally, he added, because of Calgary’s historically strong economy.

“We definitely see this as the departure from sitting behind a desktop and getting your information that way,” said Pedrotti. “We’re trying to get ahead of the ball by having the right mobile application infrastructure in place when we get to that critical mass when everyone has a smartphone.”

Pedrotti declined to specifically comment on future projects, but said Calgarians can expect to see more developments in mobile applications from the city.

“We have a lot of ideas in store for 2012,” he said.

City officials have warned citizens not to use smartphones while driving or crossing C-Train tracks. Alberta’s distracted driving law came into effect Sept. 1 and offenders can now be given fines up to $172.


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