Gabe Klein, who quit his job as Chicago transportation commissioner last November and moved back to Washington, is about to become a proud papa.
On two fronts, actually.
Klein's wife, Stephanie Plummer Klein, is nine months pregnant, he told your Getting Around reporter Friday.
"That's why I had to leave Chicago," he said of his wife, who lived in Washington during his tenure in Chicago. "We are due for a baby within a week."
And another birthing, of sorts, is set for Monday, when a young technology company that Klein recently joined as an adviser will release a commuting app in Chicago that helps users search for rides from a variety of choices and to compare prices and estimated travel times.
Called RideScout, the free app available for iPhones and iPads at the App Store, and Android smartphones at Google Play is intended to provide one-stop shopping, offering an alternative to using an array of single-purpose apps like CycleFinder and online services such as CTA Bus Tracker, the company said.
The app is designed to appeal most to "urban millennials" who increasingly are postponing car ownership and instead are hopping on mass transit for more than just work-related commuting trips as well as opting for the new "sharing" trend — from cars to bikes to nontraditional taxi-type services, said Joseph Kopser, RideScout's chief executive officer and co-founder.
It's one reason that Kopser said he sought the help of Klein, who during 21/2 years as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's first transportation commissioner often displayed a decidedly anti-car attitude in his campaign to promote alternatives as tools to reduce traffic accidents and congestion and expand consumer choices.
RideScout officials compare their app to travel websites that aggregate airline, hotel and car rental services.
RideScout assembles many, but not all, of the available options in Chicago on one screen — from CTA and Metra stops, to Divvy bike-sharing and Zipcar car-sharing locations, to Sidecar ride-sharing vehicles that are cruising nearby, to traditional taxicabs dispatched by the Hailo app, as well as directions for walking, riding your own bike or driving.
For drivers, the RideScout app also includes the Parking Panda service, which provides parking rates at various facilities as well as the number of available spots in real time and allows customers to reserve a space.
RideScout works with the GPS in smartphones and maps the available transportation choices by displaying icons on the screen. Users can hover over the icons to see, for example, what buses are available at a specific location and what time the buses will arrive, or scan how many bicycles are currently available at a Divvy bike station. The option is also provided to type in a starting point and a destination.
RideScout then calculates the comparative costs and projected travel times — right down to the number of calories burned by pedaling a bike or walking. Suggested routes are provided.
It's then up to the user to select the best option for the specific trip, depending on whether the user's top priority at the moment is the shortest travel time, the lowest cost or getting some exercise.
RideScout collects data from public agencies using their application programming interfaces, such as CTA Train Tracker. And RideScout has partnered with some private companies like Zipcar and public-private partnerships, like Divvy.
But there are holes in the current architecture.
For instance, the RideScout app will not initially list information for Chicago water taxi services, said Rachel Charlesworth, RideScout's communications manager.
In addition, for driving travel times, the estimates are based on distance and posted speed limits. They will not initially reflect real-time traffic conditions, Charlesworth said in response to questions. Also, the driving cost estimate will not include tolls on the Illinois Tollway, the Chicago Skyway or the Indiana Toll Road, she said.
The Chicago area is the fifth city served by RideScout. The Texas-based company launched the service in November in Washington and currently also serves Austin, Texas; the San Francisco Bay area; and Boston.