Public Transit Tools to Make Your Commute Better

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:51:09 PM ET
Map app on tablet
CC0/FirmBee/Pixabay

Whether you've just moved to a new city or you're sick of missing your train or bus or whathaveyou, you've come to the right place. There may well be a public transit app to revolutionize your daily commute. Some of the public transit tools listed below you've probably heard of—although you might not have turned to them in your time of need. Others may be entirely new. Either way, read on for some of the best public transit apps out there.

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Google Maps

Almost certainly, this one falls into the former category of apps that you've already heard of. Yet most people tend to associate this core product in Google's free app repertoire with simply getting directions.

In fact, Google Maps offers so much more than that. Of relevance here is the public transit information to get you from A to B by the shortest possible route. Simply follow the usual process for getting directions, then click on the Transit tab to show the various train lines and bus routes that serve them. Enter your departure time, your preferred mode of transportation and whether you want to avoid detours. Google will take care of the rest.

It has its limitations, though. For instance, it doesn't adjust travel times to reflect traffic and it doesn't update service or route changes.

Citymapper

This is where Citymapper comes in handy, offering alerts and live estimates of travel times. This app works by drawing together data from various real-time sources, including transit authorities and the users themselves.

Users can also store their regular routes, making Citymapper ideal for commuters. And the easy-to-use interface will take you through the route step-by-step, saving you time that's better spent on the move.

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Unfortunately, Citymapper doesn't have the coverage of Google Maps. The app only serves a fixed number of major cities—mostly in North America and Europe. These include the Vancouver, Mexico City, Brussels and London metro areas. Tokyo, Sydney, St. Petersburg and Sao Paolo are some of the notable exceptions.

Moovit

By contrast, Moovit currently serves more than 2,700 cities (and counting) worldwide. Simply tell it where you want to get to and it will suggest public transit routes, as well as various ride-sharing options.

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Once you've selected your route and transportation, the app will guide you through the steps with live directions—including how far you have to walk. While you're waiting for a bus or train, it may even tell you how many stops it has left to make before it arrives at yours. Then, once you're on the bus or train, it'll tell you when you need to get off.

Thanks to crowdsourced tips and reports, Moovit also provides live updates on changes to your chosen route or service.

Curb

Curb has a far more specialized and limited coverage than any of the apps mentioned above. But if you live and work in the New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC or Chicago metro areas (among several dozen other US cities), it may help a lot with your commute—at least if you get to work in a taxi.

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Not only can users search for and book a cab through the app, you can also use it to pay. And you don't need to limit its use to cabs you need right away; Curb allows you to book a cab in advance as well. That means one less thing to do if you're running a little late for work.

Transit

Transit covers well over a hundred cities across numerous countries. By syncing with local transportation agencies, it can generally be relied upon to provide reliable information (although it is known to get things wrong on occasion). It also gives live alerts and updates on changes, delays and service changes.

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Like some of the others on this, it provides step-by-step route instructions for a variety of transport options. These include buses, trains, subways and even bikes from sharing stations. It also integrates the Uber network.

With this app, you simply have to open it up for it to show you the transportation options near you. While this can make the interface a little crowded, the design and ease of use are commonly listed among the app's strengths.

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