With SafeTrack in full swing, those sometimes painful Metro commutes may seem even more so.
Single-tracking, station closures and partial line shutdowns have made Metro planning essential. And to do so, many riders have turned to an array of apps. We asked members of “Off the Rails,” our private Facebook group where Metro riders discuss the system’s impact on their daily lives, which apps they’re using.
Our informal survey gave way to a fruitful discussion. Bear in mind, some people had multiple favorites. And don’t forget that there are always official channels like Metro’s Trip Planner and BusETA to help you map out your commute.
Here’s what they recommended:
This was by far the favorite. In addition to providing the usual dashboard of wait times and a line-by-line breakdown of Metro service disruptions, this app displays Metro’s train locations in real-time, providing a way to visualize congestion in and out of the tunnels.
One Off the Rails member said it’s essential for planning trips on the Silver Line, which he says is “not super regular sometimes.”
“It lets me time when I leave my house so I don’t have to wait, even on normal days,” he said.
This app culls all the available transit data in the region and displays it in a clean, simple dashboard. Where’s the nearest bus stop? How far is the Metro? And what if I want to use Capital Bikeshare? It’s all available on one screen in Transit App, which claims to work in 125 metropolitan areas with open transit data.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Aimee Custis put it like this: “I’ve used it forever, and…it isn’t broken.”
The app provides wait times and delay information, in addition to map showing landmarks along the way.
Custis: “I chose it originally because it would show me not only Metro trains, but Metrobuses, AND Circulator buses. It also has an offline system map and trip time calculator function, and saves my most commonly-used Metro stations (and others I use) as favorites, which saves me time.”
Off the Rails member Kevin Combes is partial to this app, which he developed himself.
He says it’s a no-frills companion that lets riders instantly access their train times.
Combes: “If you let it access your location, it will auto-select the nearest station when you load the app. Ideally, you open the app and your train times are just there. It also gives you a visual alert if there are official WMATA delays.”
This app, famous for its “heat maps” showing on-time performance and line-by-line delays, is popular with D.C. commuters. It ranks stations in real time on a spectrum from “Great” to “Argh!” As in “The Red Line is SafeTracking this week…’Argh!’”
Used by an estimated 45 million people worldwide, Moovit claims to be the no. 1 global app for public transportation. It’s got live walking directions and data for 1,200 cities in 66 countries. And its interface is pretty.
Compatibility: iPhone, Android
The region’s most popular app for local transit, D.C. Metro and bus features train and bus wait times in a simple interface. It’s handy if you need a copy of a Metro map, and also displays Circulator wait times for those needing to navigate the District.
This app has real-time arrivals, schedule information, directions, push alerts and line diagrams. Off the Rails member Michael Pratt says he uses it for delay-related push alerts.
Another revelation to come from our unscientific poll: Metro riders have a Twitter habit.
Off the Rails member Tom Spinčić said he relies mostly on Twitter to monitor Metro alerts. Michael Zwirn, another member of the group, agreed.
“True: Twitter alerts tell me about looming issues faster than anything more official!”