Seeking the best smartphone transit apps for Washington

January 16, 2013

In the era of omnipresent smartphones, many commuters rely on apps to help them get around. This is true for riders waiting for a bus or train, drivers looking to pay for a parking spot and cyclists who want to use Capital Bikeshare,

Metrobus riders who used NextBus DC found themselves out of luck last month when the app stopped working. Our colleague Dana Hedgpeth reported on the problems that developers say they encounter when trying to build transit apps that use Metro’s data.

NextBus DC is still dark, though developers say they will relaunch it in the coming weeks. That got us thinking: What other apps are available to help people get around? We’ve listed a few options here. Do you have any other recommendations? Have you tried these or other apps and found that they work or have flaws? If so, share your tips in the comments section below.

• DC Rider is a Metrorail-centric app offered by The Washington Post (available for Apple and Android). This app won’t help Metrobus riders, but it does offer train arrival times, trip planning and the latest news and tweets relating to Metro. But be wary of relying on the train arrival times; much like Metro’s passenger information displays (which list train arrival times in stations), the times aren’t always accurate.

• DC Transit Info offers real-time information for rail stations and bus stops. Andy Monat, the app developer in Boston who created it, told Hedgpeth that hundreds of Metro’s bus routes had problems with missing or incorrect data. A quick test of this app on Wednesday showed that stops on some bus and train routes didn’t display arrival times.

• DC Metro and Bus is another well-reviewed app that uses Metro’s data to provide real-time rail and bus predictions (available for Apple and Android). Ian Dixon, who developed this app, told Hedgpeth that  the app’s popularity pushed it beyond the data limits Metro has in place, causing outages around the Christmas holidays.

Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Robert Thomson · January 16, 2013