Playing catch-up

(Ben Claassen III/For Express)
(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

A bus ride beats taking Metro in so many ways: It’s cheaper, it brings you to more destinations, it usually has a friendlier vibe (we won’t count the one that hit the snowy owl on Thursday). It’s also above ground, which means you’ll always have a phone signal and a chance to bail if something’s gone wrong.

As Metro continues to experience epic rail fails — like during Wednesday morning’s commute — some people are bound to find bus backup plans that are more reliable than their typical train trips.

Where buses tend to fall behind is in predictability, but technology has been changing that. With a peek at Google Maps and the NextBus mobile site, anyone with a smartphone can figure out how to get anywhere, any time.

And new apps are aiming to make it a no-brainer to get on board. CapitolHop, which features bus (and Metro) arrival times, landed in the App Store last week. The slick program is the latest one designed to help you quickly find the closest stops.

I still prefer another free app that launched last year, BusTrackDC. (It’s available for iPhone and Android, and helps users visualize where individual routes go.) But I like that competition is driving innovation for us nondrivers.

My new favorite technology trick comes courtesy of RideScout, the free option aggregator app that gives users a list of ways to get from point A to point B. This week’s update for iPhone and Android offers handy notifications specifically for bus riders. Using real-time arrival data, it can tell you when to start walking to make sure you’re at your stop on time. And once you board, you can get a reminder when you’re close to your destination so you won’t miss it.

So I don’t need to see any sort of schedule. It’s obvious that it’s time for the bus.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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