It’s been a year since Metro made its route and schedule data public and in that time 14 applications have popped up that make use of the data. You can find the list of third party apps on Metro.net’s new Mobile Resources page.
There’s a few web based apps on the list, the most obvious being Google Maps which seamlessly integrates Metro’s transit data alongside driving, walking and cycling directions. Walk Score mashes up Google Maps, Metro transit data and all sorts of other data to determine how walkable a particular address is – great if you’re looking for a new neighborhood to render your car obsolete. Transitly is a web application that’s optimized for mobile devices and provides easy to access schedule data for all Metro’s bus and rail lines.
There’s no shortage of apps for Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone. TransitGuru, iTrans and iTransitBuddy (also available for Android and Blackberry) all offer ways to get schedule info for Metro Rail lines. iPhone 3GS users will want to check out StopFinder which uses augmented reality technology to help locate bus stops. Unibus puts all of Metro’s transit data (bus and rail) at your fingertips – quite literally.
Keep in mind, none of these applications have been developed by Metro – they just make use of Metro’s publicly available data – so if you have any issues with the apps contact the developer.
While some of these apps are free, others charge a few bucks to download. With that in mind I thought I’d share my thoughts and recommendations on a few of the apps on a the list that I’ve tried out.
I’m an iPhone user, so Android and Blackberry apps will be ignored, but if you use those phones I’d love the hear about your experience with the available third party apps. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the reviews after the jump.
- Transitly (web based)
If you’re looking to know when your bus or train is scheduled to arrive, there’s really no better app out there right now than Transitly. It’s got a simple interface optimized for the mobile web, but don’t let its looks deceive you – this little program packs a lot of punch. Simply point your browser to transitly.com and choose Los Angeles (don’t worry, you don’t have to choose your city each time), from there it’s just a matter of entering your route number, choosing the direction you’re headed in and selecting your stop. From there you are presented with a list of the next five scheduled arrivals. Here’s where the app really proves its use: your route and stop choice are automatically saved, so the next time you visit Transitly you can see exactly when your regular ride is scheduled to arrive. For regular Metro riders who know where they’re going and on what bus, this app is indispensable. A few caveats though: the times presented are based on schedules, not real time data (which Metro does not provide yet). Also, since this app is web based and requires an internet connection, it won’t work in subway tunnels. Good news though, the app is FREE.
- Unibus (iPhone)
Unibus is a lot like Transitly, but it’s for iPhone only and because of that offers a few extra features not found in the super simple web app. Oh, and it costs $2.99. So what do you get for your money? The biggest advantage over Transitly is that the app makes use of the iPhone’s GPS allowing you to find nearby bus stops at the touch of a button. The GPS search is customizable too – you can specify a maximum number of stops to display as well as a search radius of up to one mile. The app displays a list of nearby stops and when you click a particular stop a list of all lines that serve the stop are listed along with their next two scheduled arrival times. Like Transitly, you can bookmark your favorite stops and routes so you can quickly see when your bus (or train) is scheduled to arrive. Another neat feature of Unibus is the ability to see the entire route displayed on a Google Map. Also, you can view the entire schedule of any route if you desire. Like Transitly, the data is not real time and requires an internet connection.
- iTrans (iPhone)
One problem with the previous apps is that until cell service is available in Metro’s subway tunnels users are unable to access the schedule info while underground. Sure, Metro’s transit passenger information displays in subway stations provided next trains info, but the monitors aren’t always working and are not visible from every spot in stations. This is where iTrans proves itself to be a very useful app. It only has schedule info for Metro Rail and Metro’s BRT routes (Orange and Silver Lines), but all the schedules are stored on the iPhone so you don’t need an internet connection to access them. The interface is simple and straight forward, giving the user the option of a clickable Metro Rail map or a list of routes. Simply click the station you plan on leaving from and the trains leaving from that station are displayed along with the next five trip times. When you’re above ground you can also use the GPS to find the nearest station and the program will even provide walking directions. iTrans costs $0.99, a steal if you ask me.
Stay away from these apps:
- iTransitBuddy (iPhone)
At $0.99 it’s cheap, but unfortunately it also has a clunky user interface and is slow as molasses. It doesn’t require an internet connection, but it goes so slow you’d swear it did. If you need Metro Rail schedules, you’ll be better off with iTrans.
- Networking 2.0 – LA Maps (iPhone)
It costs $2.99 and all it does is download (very very slowly) and display (barely) Metro’s PDF maps on your iPhone.