I’m a confirmed public transit user. When I can’t walk or ride my bike, I take local buses, trains and ferries. With global warming and ever rising oil prices we should all be trying to limit our driving by making at least some of our trips on public transportation. Transit, a least when it’s working right, is a great way to get around in cities. But it can be pretty frustrating too. Like waiting an hour for a bus only to discover it only runs on weekdays and today is Saturday. Or getting on the wrong train and getting lost. Or missing the last bus home after a night on the town and having to walk 5 miles.
In many cities, the mobile web can help make transit a relatively efficient and worry free experience. This is an area of the web on phones that’s really starting to take off, mobile trip planners, timetables and real-time arrival information is now available for most major cities in the US and around the world. Here are five mobile transit sites that I recently discovered. This brings the total number of transit related mobile web sites in the WapReview Mobile Web Directory to 29. Please contact me or leave a comment if you know of others.
Washington, DC‘s transit agency, the WMATA, has had a mobile site for years now, it’s at wmata.com/mobile and is an old school WML site that requires you to type in station names for some functions and is a bit quirky but offers a lot of information. There’s a point to point trip planner, real-time arrival times for buses and trains and escalator outage information.
If you are looking for something a little more modern AND you have an iPhone (or possibly a phone with a Netfront browser or a Palm with Blazer) you can use Meenster.com. It’s a bit more single purpose than the official site. There’s no trip planner and it doesn’t cover bus lines, only the Metro. What Meenster does do is show you the departure time for the next six trains for any Metro station. There’s also a link to a Google Map centered on the station. Google detects your device and provides a mobile formatted interactive map that lets you zoom in and out, scroll around, search for nearby businesses and get driving directions. Source: Oatmeal Stout – Justin Thorp’s Web 2.0 blog
Ben from Mobile Web Site Watch left a comment on my Mobile Train Schedule review that included a link to several mobile transit sites from Usablenet.com. Some of these (Los Angeles MTA, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit) are already in the directory but the following three are new:
Boston’s MBTA (mobile.usablenet.com/mt/www.mbta.com) This site includes schedules for every one of the MTBA’s hundreds of bus, rail and boat lines. The schedules are static, listing all trips for a given line, direction and day of the week in as a single paginated list. Not the most usable mobile interface, it would be a lot better if there was an option to restrict the listings to a specific time, defaulting to the next hour or so. There are route maps too, in PDF format, a strange choice for mobile as few, if any phones natively support viewing PDF documents. The site does provide links to downloadable PDF readers for Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and some Symbian devices.
New York MTA (mobile.usablenet.com/mt/mta.info) includes New York’s city buses, subway and the Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter trains. The Metro North schedules are a static list of all trains for a given day of the week and direction, but the Long Island Railroad’s allow you to specify the time, start and destination station to receive a custom schedule. For New York city buses and the subways, the site provides a full featured point to point and round trip planner and a “Service in the Area” feature that lists all lines within a mile or less radius of a given address. The site also has service advisories and PDF maps.
Phoenix AZ Valley Metro (mobile.usablenet.com/mt/www.valleymetro.org) offers an interactive trip planner, static schedules, service advisories and maps in .gif format. The maps are resized on the fly to fit various mobile screen sizes ranging from 96px to 320 px in width and should load on almost any phone, although they tend to be hard to read in the smaller sizes. There are links to PDF maps too but the ones I tried didn’t work. There are also turn by turn text descriptions of each line’s route which are probably more useful than the maps.
Tokyo and Japan: If you are in Japan or plan to visit there check out the Norikae-Annai (Train Route Finder) from Jorudan (jorudan.co.jp/english). It’s an all-inclusive trip planner that not only covers commuter and subway trains in Tokyo but also intercity rail, bus and air connections throughout Japan. For each trip, Jordan will list the fastest route as well as several alternates. For intercity trips over a few hours the first route will be via air, complete with local connections to and from airports. Train Route Finder is an iMode site but seems to work reasonably well with the mobile browsers of most Western phones.