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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Best Public Transit Apps

Have a look at the best Public Transit Apps available. Just a reminder that these apps have not been reviewed with general navigation or gps features as criteria, rather they have been tested and reviewed on how well they help in using Public Transit. Though there are numerous players in this segment, not all apps are simple to use and not user friendly. When we are on a ride in a Public Transport and without any indication of where we are and where to get down, these transit Apps do help in tracking the ride and letting us know about the destination.



Citymapper:

Citymapper is the best and the most matured app in this category.What I liked is the user interface. An example of this is when searching and loading directions or routes, it shows a label "thinking.." instead of the standard "loading" symbol or label. It uses the Open data provided by the transport authorities in the major cities and  it doesn't solely depend on this data. It is  a crowd-sourced application where the user's inputs are used as real time data along with the open data . This is the edge which the app provides when compared to Google apps or State owned apps.  The app has features galore for the users seeking assistance  while using Public transportation, be it showing best routes, nearest bus stops, Real-time departures, Transit maps, Line status and real-time disruption alerts, Uber integration, Bike routing and live bike share info, Constant updates. It lets the user know when his stop is arriving and how many more stops he needs to be in.





The Best thing about this app is that it has a web version along with iOS or Android, which can be opened on any browser  (PC or mobile). I just want to give a big round of applause for getting this requirement so perfect. When someone is on PC, obviously they cannot remember this information or carry their PC. So they have given options to "Share Direction" (through Facebook or Twitter or mail or a plain link) , "Print Directions".







One of the amazing features is "Where to get on a train" feature. In journeys and GO mode the app will advise you where (front / middle / back) to get on the train in order to be best positioned to the exit / transfer when you get off.



The app not just helps the transit, it can also be used to Publish transit direction to a venue or a point through a link.



Coverage:
USA/CANADA: New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal.
ASIA: Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo.
EUROPE: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Paris, Lyon, Berlin, Hamburg, Brussels / Belgium, Amsterdam / Randstad, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Lisbon.
LATIN AMERICA: Mexico City, São Paulo.

Moovit:

Moovit is a strong competitor to Citymapper app and  is found to be very good in terms of accuracy and estimates. It is yet another crowd-sourced mobile application available in Google play, Apple Store and Windows Store. It is an emerging app and has great scope to stand the heat in this tough market segment. It lets the user know when his stop is arriving and how many more stops he needs to be in and more.

The best feature which beats the rest in this race is its Live Ride feature. When on a bus, you could start the app and  hit "Live Ride" tab . This will bring up the details of all the buses in your GPS area, where you can chose the bus number you are in and then track your path, know how far you are from your destination or when to get off at your destination. 

The Live direction shows your actual location and track the bus route as it passes each bus stop. Though the same feature is listed on other apps, this is the best in terms of accuracy and user interface. For example Google maps would just show the static image without letting you know where you are exactly on the List (though you can always find it from satellite view). CityMapper and State owned apps are more reliant on GPS data and Public transit data provided by the transport authorities. So their accuracy depends on the GPS accuracy and the open data provided by the Transport authorities. On the other hand Moovit uses the passive data sent by other users on the bus rides and mixes it with the data provided by the Public transport data and GPS. So the accuracy in a way is dependent on both the Public data and the number of active users of the app in the specific area. In a city like Singapore where the active users count is more and data usage in mobile is very common , the accuracy levels is pretty high. But this might not be the case in every country.





Moovit is available in 100+ cities across the US:New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Austin, Seattle, Miami, and moreco City, Peru (Lima), New Zealand, Philippines (Manila), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Greece (Athens), South Korea (Seoul), Norway (Oslo). Moovit is a worldwide app! You can find us in hundreds of cities around the world including: UK (London, Birmingham, Manchester), Spain (Barcelona, Madrid), Italy (Rome, Milan, Napoli), France (Paris, Bordeaux), Poland (Warsaw, Lublin, and more), Sweden (Stockholm), Finland (Helsinki), Hungary (Budapest), Russia (Moscow), Netherlands, Israel, Brazil (Rio, Sao Paulo), Chile (Santiago), Colombia (Bogota), Mexico City, Peru (Lima), New Zealand, Philippines (Manila), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Greece (Athens), South Korea (Seoul), Norway (Oslo).

Google Maps

Google Maps is the best, when used as a navigation aid while driving or getting directions to new place. There is nothing better than Google Maps in navigation, as the input sources and technology used in the app, puts it few miles away from the rest of the apps in navigation segment. But while using it for directions in Public Transport mode, the same cannot be said. It is quite lousy and not user friendly. Nevertheless on a persoanl front,as a user this was the only app, on which I survived for all these years before moving to the one which is rated as best in this review. It purely uses GPS and other location services. The delay in the GPS updates, are sometimes quite irritating and erroneous in some instances. For all the apps the main source is the local Transport API's and other information relayed through the official Public Transport sources. The app does not have any sort of notifications or update mechanism to brief the users on new services or service interruptions. But there are features in this app which are unique :



  • Printout option (handy when the mobile battery is down or when there are network or data issues)
  • Ability to open on a PC.
  • Maps covering 220 countries and territories. Detailed information on more than 100 million places.


Apple Maps:

The latest Apple maps for iOS 9, is a much improved version and gives good competition to Google maps, unlike the earlier versions. It is not a Public Transit Application but as it is the default navigation app installed on all iPhones, we have decided to review it. The interface is not intimidating and quite simple to start with.

Unlike Google maps which has its data coming from the its own satellites and Public transit data providers, Apple maps uses the data inputs from their GPS partners and sometimes data from the network providers. The interface is simple and is purely a navigation app. It's real-time satellite view is quite good and in most cities the bus stops and train station are well marked. So this feature can be used while stuck in a bus, wondering where to get down and or when your destination is arriving. Use this app only as your last option and when you have no Transit assisting apps on your mobile.

There is no Public Transit integration and do not expect any Bus numbers or Bus stop details or arrival timings.


State owned Apps :

Generally State owned or apps from the local Transport authorities have the latest Public Transport data and they are the data service providers for other apps in this race. Ideally, they should be the closest and accurate Journey planners or Travel companions. But the efforts they put on their app interface and in designing user friendly features, is not on par with other App developers.



Just to demonstrate and review one such apps, we have taken Singapore as our test location and used the MyTransport app from the Land transport Authority of Singapore. The app is simple to use and far better than Google maps  in terms of Arrival times, Bus Directions and Live Ride tracking. They have clearly identified the core requirement of any Public transit app, i.e. let the user know when his stop is arriving and how many more stops he needs to be in. But as it is purely GPS data based, there can be delays in the updates and chances of reporting the arrival time after departure are high.



In terms of new services  or changed routes or Bus arrival times, nothing beats such State owned Transit apps, as they provide the first hand data and since the data is coming directly from the Transit Data Provider.






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