Getting lost, at least by accident, shouldn’t be an option. If you’re traveling to a city where you won’t have your own car, public transportation can be a confusing and opaque challenge. Especially if you are trying to use buses, which are always insane.
There are dozens of local transit apps out there that aim to help you unravel the knotted bus maps around the world and get you where you’re going, but three major players are dominating the scene: Transit app, Citymapper and Moovit. We’ve compared them on routes through five different cities to see which one you should choose.
Why not just use Google Maps?
Google Maps or Apple Maps is probably already on your phone, so your first question should be: why not just use your maps app?
One of the reasons is the apps ‘nearby stops’ feature, which shows you the nearest public transport options around you. Standard mapping applications do not do this. Dedicated transit apps are also much clearer when they have reliable and up-to-date bus and train arrival times, and they can integrate options like bike sharing and Uber as Google and Apple. Maps do not touch.
Once again, especially if you are using buses, this live bus arrival data can really make the difference between a smooth journey and shaking your fist at the injustices of the world when it comes to transit. The three apps we’re looking at make this obvious. Google and Apple don’t. It’s super important.
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For my tests, I tried several routes in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, and Barcelona, ââall cities that I know quite well. Different apps offered the best routes in different cities.
For New York Citymapper has given by far the best routes. It tells you which section of the train to get on for the easiest transfers, and even offers “rain-free” routes that are as underground as possible. He had all of the public transportation options outside of New York City in the New York metro area. Its bike-sharing option (pictured left) makes it clear how many bikes are available and where to drop them off. It’s only available in 30 cities, but I’ve found it to be the clearest and best routing engine for most point-to-point routes.
Transit’s interface for showing upcoming bus arrivals at nearby stops is bolder, one of the reasons our reviewer Jeff Wilson liked it more than Citymapper. It is also available in more cities. But Transit made mistakes on several New York City routes, missing a commuter train option to Queens and a trip that involved a slightly longer than usual walk to the subway. Citymapper’s routes were simply better. However, Transit has a better bike-sharing interface: while Citymapper gives you the availability of self-service bikes on your specific route, Transit lets you browse available bike-sharing stations across a city.
Moovit (right) gave the worst routes in New York and was unfamiliar with the Toronto airport train, but gave the fastest, most flexible routes in Chicago. The real strength of the app, however, is that it covers 700 cities, far more than Transit’s 80 and Citymapper’s 30. Want directions to Buffalo, Busan, Reykjavik or Wales? Yes, this is your transit app. I tried it with some Reykjavik bus lines and while there are no minute-to-minute arrival times, it gave me solid routes and nearby stops. But unlike Google Maps, Moovit didn’t list Buffalo Metro Rail, sending me on a less efficient surface route than the one Google Maps gave me.
The transit app you choose will depend on the city you are traveling to. I would choose Citymapper where it’s available, as it offers the best balance between route options and a clear display of the next trip. But it’s only available in 30 cities. After that, I would choose the Transit app and finally Moovit. In any case, they will unravel the mysteries of local buses for you, to make your trips easier.
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