TDM TAKEAWAYMobile apps make riding on public transportation much more predictable and enjoyable.
In days gone by, those who used public transit were at the mercy of the drivers or train operators, traffic, and fate. Sure, there were schedules, and you could read the daily newspaper or a paperback while you hoped, waited, and wished for your bus to show up, but that’s about it.
Enter mobile applications …
Here are seven that will help your commute become a cinch:
Your City’s App: There are several apps that access the transportation systems of multiple cities (more on that below), but first check out the official one from your city’s transportation authority. The Chicago Transit Authority, for example, brings travelers Bus Tracker, which not only provides you with door-to-door directions, but also gives real-time status of each bus or train. The benefit of real-time tracking is that you know exactly how long to give yourself when you’re trying to arrive somewhere at a given time. Additionally, it helps you avoid unnecessary wait times. If you know your bus won’t come for 20 minutes, you can pop into a coffee shop and wait comfortably instead of standing on the street.
AllSubway: AllSubway is well worth the $0.99 cost in the iTunes store if you frequently travel and need to pull up transit maps of multiple cities at a moment’s notice. While it doesn’t give you schedules, it can access the maps even when you’re offline, which is great for when you may not be getting a signal or when you’re abroad, where data rates may be sky high.
Moovit: Touted as the Waze of public transportation, Moovit relies on crowdsourced information to help you take the best possible route, avoid overly-crowded buses or trains, and find alternatives in case there’s a station closing or some other unexpected event along your route. Users can even snap and post pictures – this is a huge help for big-city residents who should know alternate options in case something goes wrong.
HopStop: This is sort of a one-stop-shop for your transportation needs. HopStop serves up directions, schedules, stop locations, crowdsourced updates (from more than two million monthly users), biking directions, and even taxi cost estimates as a back-up option. And it does all of that in more than 600 cities around the globe. For those on two or four wheels, it also provides directions for folks on bikes, in wheelchairs, or with strollers. Bonus: you can even find out how many calories you’re burning and the amount of carbon emissions you save each time you opt for public transportation instead of driving. Oh, and, by the way, it’s free.
Kindle: You don’t actually have to own a Kindle to use the Kindle app. If you have an Amazon account, you can download books, newspapers, and magazines to read on your phone or tablet when you’re on the go. Take a look at the daily deals and books priced really low for a wealth of affordable reading material.
Instapaper: If you’re like most, you spend a lot of time perusing social networks and media sites when you’re waiting for your train or riding home after work. But because you’re on the go and have to pay attention to where you are, you may not want to dive into reading those longer articles you stumble upon. Instapaper comes in handy by linking up to your other apps and allowing you to save stories to read later. After all, you know you’ll never remember to go back and find it.
Spotify: Sometimes you don’t want to read or even browse through your friends’ daily musings on Facebook – you just want to put on your headphones and zone out. With Spotify’s free service, you can listen to any song you want or any of its radio stations. But for $10 a month, you can create your own, unlimited custom playlists as well as listen to the radio and mood playlists, all without having to put up with ads. And the real benefit for public transit commuters is that you can save these playlists for offline listening. This helps keep your data usage down or if you don’t always get a signal on your route.
The real secret most public-transportation users know is that letting someone else take care of the driving is usually a pleasure. You get to sit back and relax as you head to work or social engagements.
While there are sometimes unexpected hiccups along the way, these apps will help you avoid most so you can get where you’re going with as little hassle or headache as possible.
Jay writes for various publications and blogs at www.Lawinjury.com.
Photo by Ed Yourdon.