5 great iPad apps for using mass transit more effectively

by Derek Walter

August 7 2013

Google Maps displays transit information in real-time
Google Maps displays transit information in real-time

More people are ditching the smaller smartphone screen and opting to use navigation apps on their iPad. The popularity of LTE-powered devices give welcome screen real estate when trying to pinpoint train stations or read traffic alerts.

This collection of iPad-friendly apps will minimize the pain from the daily commute.

Google Maps

The most complete solution is Google Maps, given its city transit data built into the mapping software. By opening the navigation drawer and selecting “traffic,” users get a view of train lines, even color-coded to make it easy when looking for the orange line. While waiting at the station you can get a real-time update on when the next train or bus is supposed to arrive.

The only drawback is that sometimes the underground stations can have inconsistent network connections, so it may be best to check the schedule beforehand. However, if it is just the map you need, don't forget that Google Maps allows clipping a section of a map for offline use. Just type "OK Maps" into the search bar to save the area displaying on the screen.

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Transit - Directions with Public Transportation

This popular iPad app has a rather comprehensive set of navigation features for working through public transportation. It can be opened directly from the Apple Maps app when you select directions for transit routing.

Transit will also nag you about missing the bus by sending a push alert about upcoming departure times. There are handy links at the end of this article to download all of the apps reviewed, but if you end up looking to download Transit away from this site, be sure to add the longer name in order to not get lost within the long list of transit apps. 

While free, it includes an in-app purchase to remove ads.

CityTransit

The nation's largest subway system deserves some treatment here. CityTransit is a good option, as it provides service advisories and a detailed New York City transit map. The map data is licensed from the MBTA, so one can feel confident the data is accurate.

CityTransit is also a universal app, enabling you to also add it to an iPhone.

Nokia HERE Maps

If Google is considered the benchmark of mapping, Nokia is a solid runner-up. When iOS users were lamenting the loss of Google Maps, the addition of Nokia’s HERE maps was seen as a relief.

While not as comprehensive as Google Maps, it does offer some nice features of its own, such as Collections. With this feature collect favorite places for rapid accessibility when planning travel.

HopStop

Grab this one while you can, as Apple purchased HopStop recently as part of its effort to bolster its native maps application. The acquisition makes sense, as HopStop offers door-to-door transit, biking, walking and taxi directions worldwide. It originally launched in 2004 servicing New York City’s transit system, but has since expanded.

HopStop also has an excellent real-time transit featured called HopStop Live. With this feature users can report transit or other traffic delays, creating a more authentic picture of the local transportation situation. Much like Waze, Apple clearly saw this as an opportunity to add a social dimension to its Maps app that will help it better compete with Google.

Yet for now HopStop is still available, so it is worth checking out. Of course this could be short-lived - HopStop recently discontinued its support for Windows Phone after the Apple acquisition. It currently is still available for Android devices on Google Play.

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