LONDON may have its red double-decker buses, its black cabs and the Tube, but for Australian expat Andy Botting, the iconic vehicles aren’t a patch on Melbourne’s trams.
Botting says Melbourne’s trams have real charm. He mimics the screeching-swoosh remembered from his days living in North Melbourne. “On a quiet night you could hear trams coming around the corner … I miss that sound,” he says.
Botting now lives in the UK and may not have caught a tram for a while, but thousands of Melburnians who do are aided by Tram Hunter, the smart phone app he helped create.
Tram Hunter, the Android equivalent of the iPhone app tramTRACKER, provides real-time information about Melbourne’s tram network and has been installed by almost 70,000 smart-phone users.
Botting began to work on the app in 2010, while living near Flemington Road. “I’d just bought one of the first Android phones with the intention of playing around with it,” he says.
A tram user himself, he realised there was no app for Android users seeking transport information and began developing Tram Hunter.
His work was curtailed when he scored a job as a systems administrator for The Guardian newspaper in London. But after settling, he finished developing the app and relied on locals to test it.
Two years on, the free app has garnered good reviews and Botting is working on a new version. He has also developed London-based apps Tube Chaser and Oyster Mate.
He says the aim was to make an app that was quick and painless to use. “I always wanted to keep it free.”
Botting is keen to see how smart phone apps will continue to develop. “There’s scope for a lot of new and interesting things that I don’t think that people have even thought of yet,” he says.
Originally from Geelong, the 30-year-old says he was instantly taken with Melbourne’s trams when he moved to the city.
“London does have a lot of public transport alternatives, but they are nowhere near as interesting as the tram.”