I am not a New York City person anymore, in great measure because of the challenge of getting from one location to another. So when I do have to go to New York, I try to cover as much ground as I can. Recently I was able to arrange four meetings in the city on one day and discovered from my colleague Joe DeBlasio the wonders of HopStop. The idea is a simple one and makes personal local search and mapping incredibly easy. You type in your starting destination and address (like Penn Station) and then enter where you want to go. HopStop tells you how to get there by subway or bus along with easy-to-follow walking directions to make sure you get on the right subway.
Since this was new to me, I did a little homework and discovered that similar services are available in a variety of places, including Japan and London. I did my searching in advance and printed out all the directions, but I might have been in a bind if I had had to make a change. It is clear to me that this is the perfect service for a mobile application, and I’m sure it would have worked just fine with my BlackBerry. Accessing HopStop mobile tells you how you can get “subway directions when you’re on the go,” using PDA, SMS or HopStop Voice, which allows you to call a toll-free number and speak your address. Currently HopStop covers New York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and areas around New York City.
It still has a long way to go to be perfect, but when you are trying to figure out what subway line and stop is best for you to come up somewhere near your above-ground destination (and you dislike NYC cabs as much as I do), this is a wonderful service. Here’s my concern: The entrepreneur who started this may decide to expand too quickly. It is a normal issue with people who think they have a great idea and then decide that they need to be in as many cities as quickly as they can in order to beat the competition. This was both Microsoft‘s and Knight Ridder‘s thinking when they expanded their city guides before they had demonstrated the value in a few markets first. If this business is managed well, I believe it will be very successful.