Hooray for Hopstop, the go-to spot for finding out how to get to wherever you want to go in the New York City area, and elsewhere, too. Just the other day we were calculating how to get to a wedding in Brooklyn (thank you, God, for weddings in Brooklyn) and all of a sudden, after which trains to take and how far we’d have to walk in high-heeled shoes, there it was: How many calories we’d burn on that route. We are in no way obsessed with calorie counting, but it is somehow satisfying to see exactly how much we’re burning on a daily basis simply by commuting or meeting up with our friends for cocktails, especially when it justifies us getting another cocktail. We got in touch with Joe Meyer, Hopstop’s CEO, who updated us on the company’s latest offerings, including, in a partnership with Equinox, biking routes throughout the boroughs. And there’s more on the horizon.
How did you decide to implement these new additions?
Whenever we introduce a new functionality, it’s almost always dictated by users. We have a very vocal user-base; they tell us what they do and don’t like. Bicycle directions was one of the most requested. We always had mileage as part of the core transit experience, and we were bantering around the office that we should think about adding calories burned to every portion. We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback. [Biking, walking, and transit directions all include calories burned.]
How do you calculate calories burned?
Obviously, people walk at different paces, so this is done in the same way that we provide a time estimate, based on an average walking pace, the average human. We’ve based the calculation on a few different trusted sources — we know the distance we recommend you walk, how fast the average person usually walks, and how many calories are burned based on how many feet you walk — it’s a standard measurement.
Tell me about bike routes; how are you figuring those?
At the end of the day we’re a data company. No matter what route we’re recommending, it’s the data behind the scenes that makes it possible. We needed to get data that would indicate which streets and paths and alleyways and navigable roads have a bike path, and to marry that information with which other pathways can be walked on. For instance, we can’t recommend that someone ride their bike on the FDR. We took what we were already doing, recommending routes and streets to walk on, with routes and streets that are biking paths. When you’re walking you can go both up and down a one-way street, but for biking we had to eliminate possible routes that would recommend you bike up a one-way street. We color differentiate based on the type of path.
We’ll optimize from here. We get lots of user feedback, and we’ll prioritize the suggestions we hear and start knocking them out. The number one feedback so far is to introduce into mobile. We’ll also be introducing new cities for biking — it’s just New York City and its boroughs right now, although we’ll get you to New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island. We just don’t designate routes once you get there yet. It’s a hub and spoke system.
If you think about the ways that people who live in and around major cities get around, it’s every possible way, except for your own car — it’s cab, limo, Zip car, Amtrak, ferry, trolley, subway, private shuttles — we are becoming the de facto go-to site to figure out how to get from point A to point B in any major city. We’re in 37 markets, expanding to around 60 — and we’re in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and soon, Russia.
Do you see a more Yelp-like future, with users recommending routes and such?
We have some of that already — we let people recommend itineraries to other users — but we’re doing a big site redesign/overhaul, surfacing more social things like reviews of routes. We’ll be promoting our itinerary functionality; people will be able to recommend and have their favorite biking paths.
A recent poll said that New Yorkers like bike lanes but don’t see that many people using them. Do you report or plan to report information you get from your users to the city?
We definitely intend in the not-too-distant future to report how people are traversing the city in a data-visualization sort of way, not just about biking. But while we offer the recommended route, we don’t know if they’re taking it. So we can tell the people what people are requesting, but we can’t say we’ve solved the problem. We’re part of the initiative. We also have a very synergistic relationship with the MTA.
How frequently do people use Hopstop?
37 percent of our users use us 25 times a month or more, and 72 percent have used us within 24 hours of having last used us. From a user experience, we’re always looking for new ways to evolve and improve.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2011