We’ve all been there. The morning is off to a rough start and it’s not even 8 am: You didn’t get out of the house on time, haven’t had any coffee yet, are running late for work—again!—and are dashing to make the packed train that’s, thankfully, still at your station. Then, just as you’re about to squeeze on, the doors shut abruptly in your face. The train pulls away and you’re left defeated, waiting for who knows how long until the next one arrives. Even though the T can be erratic and frustrating, there are apps to help you track when trains and buses are coming so you don’t have to sprint in vain. We picked five free apps with real-time GPS information to help make your commute easier.
Apple and Android
The MBTA has endorsed Transit as its preferred public transit travel-planning app. The appealing, minimalistic aesthetic makes it easy to view which transit is closest to you and when the next bus or train will be arriving. It can be set to send push notifications about service interruptions (so you know in advance to avoid the Red Line). And it’s integrated with Hubway and Uber so you can see how many bikes are at nearby stations or where the closest Uber is located.
Apple and Android
If you’re a Commuter Rail or ferry user, the MBTA’s mTicket app is a must. Instead of having to deal with paper tickets and cash, you can buy e-tickets through the app with a credit card. You can also view schedules with live service updates and push notifications if there’s a delay or interruption. If your plans change the tickets remain valid, as they aren’t used until you click “activate” to show to the conductor. Your smartphone is your ticket. If you experience particularly bad service on a given day, you can file a complaint right in the app instead of ranting on Twitter.
Apple and Android
For the visually oriented, Citymapper offers a great way to find the public transit options around you. Pull up the map of your location and click on any bus or train station to see when the next bus or train is arriving. Or input a location and destination and easily compare options—public transit, Uber, biking, walking, etc.—by time and cost. Push notifications will let you know when you need to leave to catch the train or bus and when it’s time to disembark. The app even tells you which train car will let you off closest to the station exit you need to use.
If you’re looking for the bare-bones essential information fast, ProximiT is the app for you. Created by two Boston-area locals, this app shows inbound and outbound times for trains and buses, and indicates when there’s a delay. You can create a list of favorite routes for your daily commute and easily check your list to see when the next bus or train is coming. It also offers handy overview information like which bus routes are “key,” meaning they have frequent service, and which have only occasional service.
Like many of the other apps listed, Boston Transit provides real-time estimates of when the subway, bus, and commuter line will arrive. You can map a route and save it to your favorites for easy access as well. The game-changer here is the weather component. This app incorporates the forecast for Boston so you can decide if you want to walk to the bus in the rain or take the closer train instead. You can also share your departure time with friends and family and set a notification to alert you a certain number of minutes before the train is scheduled to leave.
If only we could help you with those oblivious backpack wearers…