App your phone: Crossing the Pond: the escape tool for the hurried traveller

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Crossing the Pond: Getting On and Off Vancouver Island is a stunningly simple travel app for iOS that does one thing and does it well. Rest assured: if you need to make a break for the mainland or expedite your trip to this island in the stream, Crossing the Pond will help you get where you want to go.

The app allows you to choose your preferred method of transport from a tile menu. It provides relevant information for travel by U.S. or domestic ferries, all manner of aircraft — jet, seaplane and helicopter — and buses, all subdivided into categories based on current location and travel company. If you are in downtown Victoria, you can find seaplane flights organized by company and departure time, and Crossing the Pond will tell you when you need to leave and where you need to be to catch each flight.

Crossing the Pond links directly to various transport companies’ info sources, such as the B.C. Ferries online sailing schedule and local YYJ or YCD airport departure and arrivals boards. Crossing the Pond even provides you with a sidebar filled with ways of contacting those transit authorities if need be, ways of booking and ways of making any other type of inquiry via email or phone.

Incorporating Apple Maps into the process, it geolocates you, telling you where you need to be or where you are. If you move these pinpoints to the full Apple Maps application, you have total freedom to choose your best option when compairing locations and other possible routes. Because of its integrated weather services and push notifications, Crossing the Pond is also able to alert you to sudden changes that might put a damper on your plans, but by design will instantly be useful in finding alternative routes.

Crossing the Pond is a fairly niche application that seems to be designed for frequent Island travellers. Though I do not travel to and from the Island enough for it to warrant a front-page slot on my phone, the efficiency of having such travel information assembled in one application makes collecting and monitoring that information extremely quick and easy. Despite its sleek, translucent glass facade, there are a few flaws: for one, not all of the departure schedules are accessible within the app, meaning I was forced to download another company’s application in order to retrieve the information, even though the info was readily available through the company’s website. After inquiring, I was told by Dactyl Applications (the makers of Crossing the Pond) that this is due to the problem of possible last-minute schedule changes with some companies. Dactyl is hoping to work this out in later versions of the app through possible partnerships with the transportation companies. The other slight oversight is the lack of navigational information given to the user. Once users go to a particular company’s schedules, the clean-shelf look leaves them to tap around until they stumble back across the previous menu. I would have also liked to see integration of Google Maps instead of the unfortunate Apple version, and a more muted background would have made information more visible on the translucent menu panels.

Despite these issues, Crossing the Pond is an application that does exactly what it sets out to do and does so in an efficient and effective way. Its active development team says Dactyl is working on ironing out functionality as well as ports for Android and other platforms. I highly recommend Crossing the Pond to anyone looking for a way off Vancouver Island. I would just hope they weren’t leaving because of something I said.­

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