For years and years, I got around via the city bus and a trusty paper SF Muni system map tucked into my messenger bag. When I needed to know what alternate routes were nearby, I could just reference my map; and when it started falling apart, I could just pick up another one for $3. But something my paper map could never pull off was telling me precisely how long I would have to wait before my bus came. Or what restaurants were along the route.
Now, I love a paper map as much as the next cartophile, but these days Google Maps helps me find my way. And there are more and more specialized apps for public transit coming to more and more cities across the globe. If you're looking to upgrade your public transit maps, check out these five free apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 that will help you navigate public transportation options. Now if only there were an app that explained public transit etiquette....
Lumatic City Maps—Android, iOS
Available for over 45 major U.S. cities and metropolitan areas, Lumatic City Maps is slick and intuitive with some cool additional features that would be great when traveling to a new city or neighborhood. Upon opening the app, the initial screen displays a list of nearby transit routes, so with just two taps on your phone you can see scheduled departure times of various transit options near you.
In addition to the standard map view, Lumatic also offers a "stream view" with actual photos of main points along your route so it's stupidly easy to orient yourself (and find points of interest located nearby). Rather than selecting the transit tab at the top of the app, select the places tab which is a pretty fun discovery feature--even for your home city. The places tab shows you a list of everything from restaurants to local businesses and historical landmarks, including summaries and reviews aggregated from Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare.
This is an app ideal for people like me who take public transportation everywhere, all the time and need to know when their bus, train, or ferry is coming, like right now. Roadify doesn't try to be a tourism app--it's robust and focused on delivering straight-up, real-time, official transit schedules and service alerts from all providers in the area alongside updates crowdsourced from fellow commuters via Twitter. You can quickly select the route you want and see the next five departure times in the direction of your choice.
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