Download Now: Apps for Easy Public Transit
If you're traveling for the holidays this year, you might end up with some extra time on your hands in a new city. Trouble is...how do you get around an unfamiliar city without spending a small fortune on cars or taxis? Cue the joys and frustrations of public transit. It's inexpensive and accessible, yes, but it can also be bewildering and time-consuming to master. So we pulled together a shortlist of apps that will help you navigate the underground of heaps of cities around the world.
(Free for iPhone and Android)
If you're not already using HopStop to get you around town, then by all means, come out of your cave and download this great app. HopStop covers cities worldwide, and provides detailed directions utilizing subways, buses, driving, and walking directions. Enter your starting point (or have it find your current location) and your destination, choose your means of transit, and the app provides you with multiple options for getting where you need to be, including fare info and recommended routes. It even updates you on transit advisories and will re-route you if necessary. I use this app to get down the street, and now I get down the street faster than ever!
($3.99 for iPhone)
If your destination is New York City, try iTrans NYC. This nifty app looks suspiciously like our beloved Google Maps, and operates much the same. Use GPS to find your current location, or enter an address. Choose your destination (optional sync with your contacts is available) and iTrans provides directions via subway or bus, as well as alternate routes, service advisories, and schedules. It's simple and intuitive and for those traveling from upstate, iTrans is also available in Metro-North Railroad version, which is especially helpful considering the MNR website is a bit lacking when it comes to smartphone compatibility.
(Free for iPhone and Android)
Heading to Beantown? There are a lot of MBTA apps out there, but a dependable option is openMBTA which sources information straight from Boston's Transportation Authority. We're talking bus, commuter rail, T lines, even ferries. Choose your mode and route, and the app finds the closest stop to you, as well as lists schedule information and pops up alerts if necessary. There's even an option to check tweets with the hashtag #mbta. Note that because of its Twitter integration, the app requires users to verify that they are over 17 years of age.
Subway Only? If you eschew the bus and want to stick only with subways, then don't bother gunking up your phone with all-in-one apps. Here's one we like, but note that many cities around the globe have their own metro apps available cheap or for free.
(.99 for iPhone, free for Android as AllSubway Pro)
The AllSubway app currently provides subway maps for 151 locations around the world, and they're always adding more. And what you see is what you get. Static subway maps available offline, from Budapest to Istanbul.
Need an exit strategy? There is nothing, nothing, worse than hopping out of the subway (or metro or tube) car just to discover you're about six miles from the exit you needed. Efficiency goes out the window and blood pressure soars as you battle the crowds along the platform. Well, no more! Major cities now have apps that help you maximize your efficiency by telling you which cars to enter and exit for your most seamless escape. Apps like ExitStrategy NYC Subway Map, Tube Exits (London), and Paris Metro Exits will show you which cars are your best bet for exiting nearest your destination using fun little pictograms. Note that ExitStrategy NYC comes in at a whopping $3.99, but the others listed are available for $.99 in iTunes.
Just looking for a cab? Ok, so the idea of being stuck with an armful of presents (or turkeys) on a subway platform with one million of your closest frenemies doesn't sound like a recipe for holiday cheer to you. That's fine, Mr. Moneybags. There are plenty of apps to get you taxied up without taxing your blood pressure.
(Free for Android or iPhone)
If you've yet to master New York City's complex socio-psychological hierarchy known as the taxi hail, then allow this app to make things a little easier. CabSense uses GPS and a really complicated algorithm to find you the best corner for hailing a cab nearest you, depending on time of day and day of the week. It's scary smart. Corners are rated based on cab activity, so the more stars listed, the more likely you are to get a cab without waving till your arm falls off.
Call a Taxi
(Free for iPhone w/ads or $1.99 for Pro version)
If you're not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person, then consider Call a Taxi, which uses GPS to locate you and available car services in your area. No more calling around to find a service that actually, you know, services your neighborhood. Services are listed by distance from you, and you can read customer reviews before calling. The interface could be a little more stream-lined and the app can be a bit slow and buggy, but it should be fine for occasional use.
(Free for iPhone and Android)
Ha, those Brits and their wordplay. This taxi app is currently only available for Boston, London, Dublin, and Toronto, but New York and Chicago should be available shortly. Hailo allows you to book a taxi wherever you are, and pay using an in-app feature that saves your card information. Use GPS to track your taxi so you don't need to stand outside in the rain. You can even call your driver en-route. Unlike other booking services, Hailo charges you the meter price, which means no extra booking fees.
Photo credit: London tube via Shutterstock
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