SF Muni prepares smartphone app to compare modes

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA or just MUNI) is working on a smartphone app to compare transportation modes — comparing costs and travel times between taxi, driving, and transit.  The application would consider parking costs for the driving mode.

A brief article is on the KGO-TV website.

In recent years, most transit agencies have stayed out of the business of releasing their own smartphone apps.  Case in point: BART formerly offered an application for the PalmOS, but since has discontinued official smartphone app development, and instead links to third party apps through a Developer App Center.

I am curious as to Muni’s goal behind creating an official multi-modal application instead of letting independent developers do this.  Just for the sake of clarity: Muni plans to contract this work out, but, I assume, they will keep the intellectual property and release the app to customers.  Does the agency want more control over the way information is disseminated?  Is the agency attempting to jumpstart development and competition for a new form of multi-modal app?

One alternative approach, which I think may yield better results over time, would be to make parking and taxi data publicly available, and to sponsor a competition to reward app developers who create and release the best applications.  This would jumpstart marketplace competition and unleash new ideas (a la Here Comes Everybody).