Houston's HFH App

Using technology to solve Houston's transportation issues


As one of the largest cities in the United States, Houston is currently facing a transportation issue. A strong job market, rising population, and low fuel prices are wreaking havoc on the current transportation infrastructure. Instead of building more infrastructure to meet the growing demands, our team has come up with a more economical solution; a smart phone app for Houstonians. The main idea behind the app is to better manage the current infrastructure and thus improve the transportation efficiency of the city.

In this report, we have broken the app down into different categories and discussed the app's effects on these issues. Whether it is finding parking downtown, planning the shortest commute home, or contacting emergency personal, this app can help the Houston driver on a daily basis. Finally, we discussed how we can use the data generated by the app to help in future economic and city planning decisions.

HFH: Parking Resolutions

HFH is an app that contains various different programs, all designed to improve the quality of the City of Houston by making the town a pleasant place for both residents and visitors. The programs aim specifically at improving the traffic flow throughout the city, while at the same time increasing the safety of those present. The first key to reducing traffic is to improve our parking situation. Our app does this with a program called Quikpark, which consists of two main keys that will significantly reduce the absurd amount of slow moving vehicles. Quikpark both shows where open parking spots are available, and offers a payment method that is more convenient to the average citizen. By simply opening the app, one can select from a list various different parking garages or parking lots and view the availability of parking within that area. This is possible through two different ways. First, for parking garages or any lot with a gate, counting sensors will need to be installed on the gates. These sensors detect when a car leaves or enters the garage, and using this information along with the capacity of the garage, calculate the availability of parking inside. For open parking lots, ultrasonic sensors will need to be installed on the road surface, and these sensors tell if a parking spot is in use. Our programs will then display the information within the app, making it available to everyone. Knowing where parking is available allows for commuters to travel straight to their destination, making it directly faster for the individual driver, and improving traffic flow in general by minimizing the amount of time spent on the road. According to SFPark, a company that has implemented a similar parking plan in San Francisco, cars circling the block searching for parking accounts for one third of total traffic. Our plan eliminates this problem and allows for faster commutes across the board. The app also increases the convenience of paying for a parking spot. A payment program within QuikPark will make payment for all participating parking spots in the city possible with a debit or credit card. This process will be programmed so that payments go directly to the City of Houston, just as they do in the current system. A BBC news report reveals that in 2015, cashless payments have overtaken the traditional use of coins and notes for the first time ever. Our society is shifting towards the use of cards for payment and it is becoming less and less common to carry around cash and specifically small change. Therefore, our card accepting payment system for every parking spot is much more convenient for commuters. In addition, according to a study done by Advanced Parking Management Systems, this will decrease the amount of illegal parking that occurs due to no other options. We do plan on leaving all existing payment options, however, so that our plan does not take away any convenience from those who still prefer to use existing payment methods.

Houston Rush Hour and Tollways

Houston is notorious for its rush hour traffic. According to studies done by the Texas A&M Traffic Institute (TTI), Houston has the 9th highest commute time in the nation; and the highest in the state of Texas. They estimate the average Houstonian spends 1.5 working weeks a year waiting in traffic. That adds up to a lot of wasted time, and money.
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Photo credit: Autoblog Canada

No, it is not just you, the Houston traffic problem is getting worse. Houston's strong job market, coupled with below average fuel prices have brought more commuters to Houston, and thus more traffic. Adding more lanes to highways is costly, and creates more traffic during the construction time. There is a better way.

The HFH app can help solve the traffic problem by helping drivers find the shortest commute. Adjusting for existing traffic conditions, the app can advise the driver on the route they should take to work. Maybe it would save time to exit the free way a few exits before hand and take the surface streets. What about not using the free at all? The app can tell you the shortest route home and the ETA of your trip. The goal is to purposefully reroute traffic to spread drivers over all possible routes, not just the main ones.

Tollways are one of the commuting options Houstonians have at their disposal. However, according to the HCTRA, not enough Houstonians realize the time saving potential the toll roads. A study done by Mark Burris and the TTI shows that most people do not use the tollways because of two reasons. The first is that they philosophically disagree with paying the toll, and they will most likely never use the toll ways because of it. The second reason is because they do not have the information necessary to make an informed decision about whether to use the toll way or not. This second group is our target with this app.

According to the study, more drivers would use the toll ways if they were provided information comparing the time of commute with the tollway versus without the tollway. Provided with a real time ETA comparison for the two routes, many drivers would realize that spending less than $2.00 in tolls is worth not having to wait an extra half hour in traffic. This is exactly what our app will do. The app will automatically show the ETA of all possible routes, including one with toll ways. Then, it will calculate the cost of the route with tolls. Finally, it will take the difference between the time between the roll route and the next shortest route, and divide it by the cost of the tolls. This gives the driver a time saved per dollar spent to make a more informed decision about their commute. The results include increased toll road efficiency by removing drivers who don't need the toll roads from them, more new drivers using the toll roads, increased revenue without increased rates, and happier commuters.

See what Houstonian's have to say about traffic in their city in the video below.

How the App will handle crisis situations

Implementing this app in the city of Houston will improve the effectiveness of emergency vehicles and will increase communication during crisis situations.

The creation of this app in the city of Houston will improve the effectiveness of emergency vehicles.

  • This will happen by informing the citizens of the city of Houston immediately when a crisis situation has occurred so they will be able to stay out of the way and stay off the roads when emergency vehicles are trying to get through to a destination.

  • Every car that can be informed to stay out of the road or a location could mean precious seconds when an emergency vehicle is trying to get somewhere.

  • Implication of this app should make it easier for emergency vehicles such as firetrucks and EMS vehicles get to where they need to be so they can save valuable lives.

  • This app will help speed them up and increase the effectiveness of the emergency response system in Houston.

The creation of this app will also help out in crisis situations concerning kidnappings and serious crimes.

  • This app will be similar to the amber alerts many citizens already receive.

  • When a kidnapping or a crime is committed that is serious enough to alert the town an alert will be sent to every citizen that has downloaded the app.

  • This will help everyone know what is going on so that the crime will be able to be solved faster and so that the perpetrator will be apprehended quicker so that he will not be able to cause any more additional harm.

This app will also be helpful and will save lives when threatening weather is occurring.

  • As the residents of Houston know the weather can be very dangerous at times.

  • This app will be able to alert the residents when severe flooding is happening.

  • The app will be able to communicate information such as what roads are closed, and what areas are experiencing heavy rainfall.

  • This app will also be able to forward severe weather warnings such as tornadoes sightings and warnings, as well as any other dangerous weather advisory that could be issued.

  • This app will be able to increase the safety of Houston residents by informing them of how the weather is changing, and how they need to react to it.

  • Seconds matter when dealing with flooding or tornadoes and it could lead to life or death.

  • This is why this app needs to be implemented into the city of Houston, so the population will be safer.

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The Pie chart clearly shows that most fatalities happened while driving

  • HFH will prevent some of these tragedies by informing citizens of dangerous conditions
Flooded streets in Houston, 4/17/2015

Video of dangerous streets App will tell citizens to avoid in Houston

Credit: KBurchfiel

Costs and Revenues


Apps like this usually require a major investment of time, money and vision. For a simple app, it would cost about $10,000. For the one we are making, it will probably cost more like $20,000. Apple charges $100 a year to hold onto a developer’s account.

There are four types of apps. A simple app installs everything on the device. It takes 70-140 hours to develop. A database-supported app is supported by a database. It takes 140-210 hours. An enterprise app stores data on the device and a server. It takes over 210 hours. And lastly, a game app takes over 420 hours. Ours should take about 210 hours.

The last cost will be salary. The people making the app will need to be compensated. We will need anywhere from three to ten people. We will need at least one programmer, one designer, and one business analyst. Programmers can be very expensive because there aren’t many. Developers may charge anywhere from 40 to 150 dollars per hour. A business analyst communicates between the two. He or she has to understand the project from both angles.


Most of our revenue will come from advertisements. Currently, there are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users. However, there are more ads for desktops computing than for mobile phones. That does not mean that mobile ads do not make much money. Fifty to eighty-five percent of ads in apps are promoting other apps. The ads would be for restaurants in Houston. For example, a pop-up ad for Whataburger would pop up when the user was near a Whataburger. The ads need to not be too intrusive.

We will have a free version and later a paid version. The paid version will have more services and less ads. The Price of the paid version should be about $1.99. Apple would keep 30%, leaving us with $1.39 of revenue for each download. Since there are about 2,196,000 people in Houston that could potentially be $3,052,440 in revenue. We should release the paid one first. Then we should wait several months. Therefore, when we release the free version, it will seem like a better deal and people will download it.

Later, we will release a free version, with more ads and less services. Therefore, the paid version will be more special. The free version will be supported by advertising and in-app purchases. When faced with the choice of free aps with ads, or paying for apps, without ads, most people choose the free app and tolerate the ads. Seventy-one percent of revenue from all free apps comes from in-app revenues. The costs should not be too much and both the free and paid versions should make money.

The app will be versatile, and it will improve traffic efficiency. It will have many more uses, and people will spend money on it. We will make lots of revenue on it. In the end, the development of the app will be worth it.

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Data Management for Future City Planning

One of the many things that sets HFH apart from the other city apps we are up against is the added benefits to future city planning in the form of data collection. Our app is able to collect multiple types of data from its users such as location data, speed data, and time data. This data can then be analyzed in order to identify problem areas and plan future highways. Now, lets talk about each on of these data types how they will help future planning.

Time Data: Every time someone uses the app a time stamp can be applied to the pieces of data that are being collected.

· Identifies time periods when certain highways tend to have traffic build up

· Helps road construction crews plan the best times to shut down highways

· Identifies what time periods different lights impede the flow of traffic

· These lights can then be reprogrammed in order to allow a better flow of traffic

Speed Data: By pairing time data as well as location data, the app can calculate the vehicles speed at a given moment.

· Identifies areas where people are consistently having to slow down

· These areas can then be evaluated for a redesign

· Helps identify where there is a lack of access points or exits to the highway which is a key to highway planning

· Helps analyze capacity issues within a roadway which again is a key to highway planning

Location Data: Every time an app user uses the app, we can pinpoint their location by using the GPS services within the smart phone.

· Location data brings all other data collected together

· It places a location to every data point collected, which is pivotal in determining which areas to focus on.

· More importantly, every time there is a wreck, the location can be collected which helps identify which areas are prone to more accidents

· These areas can then be reevaluated on speed limits, roadway design, and any other characteristics, which may cause the road to be dangerous.

Not only does our app collect this data, but also it presents it in a well-organized, easily understood format. We present the collected data through Excel. These spread sheets can be easily be manipulated to focus on different areas of a highway, a highway as a whole, or even other smaller roads. The graphs shown below are just a few examples of the many different formats we can present the information. We also offer a more visual map similar to the one shown below which marks wrecks and shows areas that have traffic slow downs. This map can then be filtered to a certain time of day, a certain month, or even all of the data we have collected. This helps visualize the areas that need to be focused on.

Example Excel Spreadsheet With Graphs

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Example Traffic Map: Colors Show Road Speeds and Red Signs Are Wrecks

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(Picture Via Hostgator.com)

Works cited:

Gordon, Mary Ellen. “The History of App Pricing, And Why Most Apps Are Free.” Tumblr. 18 Jul. 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

Kosner, Anthony. “Apple App Store Revenue Surge And The Rise of Freemium App Pricing.” Forbes. 11 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

Porges, Seth. “8 Things you Should Know before Building a Mobile App.” CNN. 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Starkell, Natasha. “How Much Money Top 50 Free Mobile Apps Actually Make.” Huffingtonpost. 7 May 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.

Varshneya, Rahul. “How Your Mobile App Can Make More Money.” Entrepreneur.com. 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 7 Dec 2015

Wright, Nicholas. “How Much Should it Cost to Hire an App Developer?” upwork. 8 Jan 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.


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Texas A&M Traffic Institute. Texas A&M University. Traffic Gridlock Sets New Records for Traveler Misery. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Begley, Dug. "Study Finds Houston Traffic Congestion Worsening." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Texas A&M Traffic Institute. Texas A&M University. New App, Traffic Flow Plan Expected to Improve Aggieland Gameday Experience. Texas AM Transportation Institute. N.p., 8 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Rother, Troy. "College Station, A&M Work to Reduce Gameday Traffic Congestion." Web log post. City of College Station, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

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Burris, Mark Whitman, and Tina Geiselbrecht. Executive Report: Roll Roads, Toll Rates, and Driver Behavior. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Conrad Days work cited:

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