We recently named a bunch of smartphone apps that will help tourists and visitors find their way around the Cherry Blossom Festival events. Now we’d like your help in expanding the roster to include the apps most useful to commuters in the D.C. area.
The festival apps have special characteristics. They include orientation information, like maps, that help people find their way to festival events in central D.C. They show travel options — including biking, walking and taking a bus — that visitors might not otherwise use. The National Cherry Blossom Festival has its own app, but there are many others in this niche. They include the Washington DC Smart Travel Guide, which is available from iTunes and from Google Play. Where a bike at?, available through iTunes, helps visitors navigate the Capital Bikeshare system. And Capitol Hop, another iPhone app, helps travelers find the closest bus or rail stops and the transit arrival times.
Commuters are different. They need something that’s easy to look at and safe to use while offering reliable information about their regular routes across the greater D.C. region. They may not get anywhere near the Tidal Basin, but they want to know what the traffic is like right now on I-270 through Rockville or when the Fairfax Connector is going to reach the Van Dorn Street Metro station.
What apps do you recommend based on their accuracy, dependability and ease of use? Those are my three standards: The actual experience needs to match what the app predicted. The prediction needs to be available when I need it. And I don’t want to answer a lot of questions and tap a lot of screens to reach the information I want.
There are plenty of apps available now. The one drivers mention most often is Waze, which uses crowd-sourced information to predict conditions on your route or suggest alternatives.
Transit users have the most variety to choose from, perhaps because a handheld device is most useful when it’s not in the hands of a driver. Of course, many don’t use apps or any other information source before leaving home or office. A Post poll last summer found that only 43 percent of commuters look at any form of electronic guidance before setting out.
I don’t have one go-to guide. Among those I like are RideScout, because it shows several options and lets you choose what’s best for you at that moment. Specifically for riding Metro, I like DC Rider (a Post app available at iTunes or Google Play) because it lets me click on a system map to see train arrival times but also offers a simple version of Metro’s Trip Planner to give me travel time estimates and route options. There are plenty of others that offer similar features.
User-friendliness is relatively easy to judge. Determining accuracy and dependability is more difficult, especially for a drive. So we ask for your help in narrowing down the options to a handful of commuter apps that we can test for everyone. You can comment here or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.