What’s the Best Smartphone App for Checking Muni Arrival Times?

4008110431_1b1f84127f_o.jpgRoutesy Bay Area. Flickr photo: torrez

As most San Franciscans with a smartphone know, having access to real-time arrival information while you’re away from home can make taking Muni a much more pleasant experience. That will be true more than ever if 10 percent service cuts go through as planned.

Ideally, there would be no need to check when the next bus or train will arrive: Service should be so frequent that you can simply show up and expect to hop onboard within a few minutes.

But with some overnight bus service set to come just once an hour, and with plenty of Muni lines already pushing the comfortable limit for waiting, we thought it would be a great time to look at what the best options are for looking up arrival times while you’re away from home.

So, Streetsblog readers, if you own a smartphone, what’s your app of choice for looking up Muni arrival times? And if you’re using a regular cellphone, how’s the 511 service working out for you? If not for NextMuni arrival time data, would you ride Muni less?

Personally, I’ve been using Routesy Bay Area for the last year or so, with great results (aside from the stretch when an intellectual property rights skirmish forced the application to temporarily go offline). I’ll also supplement it with the official NextMuni website from time to time. Of course, there are times when arrival time data is simply off — or when cell phone service is spotty. That’s when it’s clearer than ever that nothing substitutes frequent service.

We’ve put together a list of Muni arrival time apps for iPhone and Android — some are free, and some will cost you between $1 and $6 (let us know the ones we’ve missed). As for which is the most reliable and pleasing to use, feel free to have it out in the comments section below.

iPhone apps
BayTripper (free)
Go To There (free)
iCommute SF ($2.99)
iCommute SF Lite (free)
Mapiz (free)
metroNOW! ($1.99)
MuniApp ($1.99)
MuniApp 2 ($0.99)
MuniMe ($5.99)
Pocket MUNI ($0.99)
Routesy Bay Area ($3.99)
SF Tracker ($0.99)

Android apps
AnyStop: MUNI (free)
Bay Area Transit Tracker Pro ($2.75)
Bay Area Transit Tracker Pro (free)
Droid Muni (free)
Muni Locator ($1.99)
MuniAlerts (free)
San Francisco Muni Plus ($1.99)
Wait For It… (free)

  • Routesy has a bug with the 48 outbound which has me very annoyed, it makes the tool basically unusable for one of my 5 bookmarked stops. Definitely routesy’s bug, NEXTMUNI shows correct data. And they haven’t upgraded to the new routes after the service cuts. For a paid app, unacceptable.

  • Every Android app I’ve tried has been well-nigh unusable on my Sprint Hero. I generally just wind up using the nextbus website, which is actually quite usable from a mobile browser (though it would be better if it would use javascript geolocation to detect its users’ locations).

  • Sam

    This is a great list.

    Are there any other strictly online sites that display multiple routes and their expected times (IE are there any NextMuni alternatives)? I don’t have a smartphone, so I just check ETA from home… and since the NextMuni site lacks bookmarking and the ability to display multiple lines at once, I’d love another browser-based option.

  • I use MuniAlerts for Android on my T-Mobile G1 with great frequency and it has rarely let me down. Frequent lines included: 9, 12, 22, 27, 33, 48

  • andrew

    Routesy has been pretty sketchy lately. Often I get no data at all despite having working 3G or wifi.

  • patrick

    I use iCommute SF Lite and it works pretty well for me, much better than the nextmuni site.

    I got it recently, and I’m not a heavy Muni rider, but it’s worked pretty well the 10 or so times I’ve used it since I got it.

  • patrick

    as an addendum, the one thing I don’t like about it is the list of nearby stops, sometimes it only shows one direction and you have to refresh one or two times for the stop to appear.

  • I use Routesy initially until it was bullied by NextBus and was shutdown. Then I switched to iCommute and is very happy with its bookmark feature. Both of them are good and worth the few dollars for supporting the developer. The NextMuni website need multiple clicks to show you the data. You deserve something better if you ride MUNI everyday.

  • Routesy is due for an update for iphone 4 and ipad rather soon. I like it the best but I want to try a few others.

  • Jon

    I use BayTripper a lot, it’s awesome! It does a lot of things that the other apps don’t do. iBart is good too.

  • whir– check out MuniAlerts again. I’ve been very happy with it.

  • Jennifer

    Why not just use the Next Bus web site. It is free, it is about as accurate as anything, and all you have to do is bookmark it in your iPhone.

  • Despite having an iPhone, I’ve always just used the NextMuni web site. I can see the advantage in an app — that I don’t have wait for the list of lines or stops to actually download, they’ll just be saved.

    However, the comments about Routesy not working well make me think I should just stick with NextMuni.

  • Claire

    Sam- You can bookmark on NextMuni by using the “Go to page that can be bookmarked” link under the arrival times.

  • Michael Smith

    If you want to try out a different kind of app simply point your iPhone/Droid/Palm Pre to NextBus.com and then click on the “special site” link in the middle of the page (or you can simply enter nextbus.com/webkit). This will bring you to a newer web based application that works on multiple types of phones. And it uses your location to display predictions for you nearest stops. Real easy to use. And you don’t even have to select a route. It should be especially handy when you are not taking your usual route or are in a unfamiliar neighborhood. It also has a zoomable map that shows you were you are, where the nearest stop is, the route, and even the buses, all in real time.

    And let people know what you think so NextBus can improve it.

  • patrick

    my problem with nextmuni/bus website is that if you are trying to find a stop that you don’t have bookmarked it’s a pain in the ass, especially on a phone.

    It’s even worse when you don’t know where the nearest stop you want is, or which is the best route available.

    Most of the apps will use your GPS and tell you all the nearby stops and which routes serve them, plus show you an area map if you want.

  • patrick

    Michael, thanks for the note about the special site. I just tried it out and it’s much closer to what the apps do, not bad at all.

  • Nick

    Back in the 90’s me and my friends would joke that we “could smell that the next bus was a just a few blocks away.” They used to spew this thick black pollution into the air. It was so visible, not like today’s polutution.

    I use the pen and paper method. The 511 site lists all the Stop ID’s for every line. Hoping the the MTA posted them along your route is a recipe for frustration.

    http://transit.511.org/accessible/departures/index.aspx

    (The only problem is that they list them in alphabetical order. Wouldn’t it make more sense to list them in the order they travel along the actual route?)

  • Ned

    Yet another Nextbus option: while I am not particularly fond of the 511.org website in general, the MTC does provide the free my511 service (http://my511.org/) which allows you to define a set of up to 6 transit departures based on Nextbus realtime data. You can bookmark the webpage in your cell phone’s web browser and then view all six of them at one glance. It’s also not as cool as the dedicated apps and requires setting up in advance, but it’s free and has the advantage of working on many (most?) cell phones or other devices with a web browser and Internet access.

  • Billy

    I use BayTripper everyday. It’s free and does more than any of the other paid apps.

  • Rebecca

    Baytripper is the best. It has everything, buses, trains, even the ferries! What else could you want!

  • robo

    Routesy almost always works well for me (i-phone 3GS) and it can usually figure out where I am. I like that you can bring up more than 1 line at a time to see which will be arriving soonest.

    Wish: That they had a ‘favorites’ list so the user doesn’t have to scroll down to see buses with high numbers.

    I used to have nextbus buttons all over my screen, but there’s not enough text space to enter the bus line, the stop, and the direction.

  • Alex

    Michael: IMPROVE THE DATA.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    The data is unreliable enough that as good as any app may be, the information it provides you isn’t going to be worth a hill of beans. I caught an outbound 38L on Thursday night. Hopped off at Park Pres. hoping to catch a 28. The 28 departed right as the 38L arrived at the stop. NB said the next one was due in ~40 minutes, but that an outbound 29 would hit Geary in 3, 13, and 19 minutes (or so). So I hopped on another 38 only to watch the 29’s NextBus sign count down from 5 to 1 minutes for about 20 minutes. When I first got there the darn sign even said “Departing”, as if it had actually acknowledged that a 29 had passed by the stop (none had).

    The inbound L sign at Sunset was also being wonky a few days ago (altho it displayed Arriving instead of Departing… hah) and counting down phantom L-OWL buses.

    The 511 voice prompts ought to be reverted back to the “ask for intersection/name of stop” first and stop ID second (not the other way around). They also ought to respond to Stonestown and SF State (or similar) for the Winston and Holloway stops.

  • James

    Just purchased pocket muni acouple of weeks ago. Pleased with it’s performance (generally). I just found out about he feature where you can get arrival time listings for a stop that serves multiple line by pressing on the flag closest to your location. (which means you don’t have to bookmark specific lines, or do any unnecessary steps) For, .99 cents I think it’s a good deal & it doesn’t have to open in safari.

    However, I like next muni’s new feature of giving you all the nearby bus arrival times. Had I known about this new feature I might not have purchased it.

  • Karl

    You missed TransiCast

  • When Routesy got into its legal kerfuffle over Nextbus data and stopped working for a time, I started using the paid version of iCommute SF on my iPhone, and I haven’t gone back. I use it almost exclusively for Muni, but it covers five other transit agencies as well—BART, AC Transit, Emery-Go-Round, and LBL Shuttle—as well as Bay Area ferries. I find the Nearby Stops feature particularly useful when I have a choice of several lines I can take, at several nearby stops, and want to know which one will get a bus arrival soonest.

    I’ve had very good luck with iCommute SF; like all the others, it suffers some from the lack of robustness of the underlying data available, but that’s not an app-specific problem.

    I still have Routesy on my phone, and as updates become available to it and to iCommute SF, I’ll keep comparing. A few of the apps on the list here are new to me, and I plan to check out the ones people have recommended.

    I don’t use 511.com for the same reason I don’t repeatedly hit myself in the head with a ball-peen hammer.

  • Karl

    I checked out a couple of the other apps on Android.
    I suppose I’ll keep TransiCast around. It shows the next bus on my bluetooth watch so I can keep the Droid tucked away and don’t have to worry about getting mugged at the stop. I also use the next stop feature sometimes, when riding an unfamiliar line and the next stops signs are not working.

  • Kimo Crossman

    Check out http://mutiny.appspot.com

    which works on any smartphone what supports Google Gears.

    it shows you all transit stops hear your current GPS location and then brings you to nextbus on the route stop you select for real time arrival info.

  • Eric

    I’ve tried several of these apps, but BayTripper really does seem to be all that you need. It’s incredibly comprehensive and does everything well: muni, BART, ferries, biking directions…you name it, it’s got it!

  • Eric, is BayTripper real-time data?

  • Brendan

    Bay Tripper is awesome, its got real time info, route maps, taxi info and even bike directions. I want them to add car sharing estimated costs too for zipcar and City Carshare.

  • Lisa W

    Bay Tripper is the best! I use it every day. I like it because you can look for routes between general areas instead of knowing addresses. It is also faster than typing in addresses.

  • Jon

    @mikesonn Yes, BayTripper uses real time data and does transit routing (inc. transfers). You can also plan trips in advance with it (that part uses scheduled data)

  • Seven

    I use both Routesy and iCommute. Both are excellent, but neither is perfect, so I pick the one that is most likely to work for me at the time.

    If I had to choose only one, it would be Routesy.

  • Alai

    Well, this is pretty dead, but I just started looking and tried a few:

    Droidmuni: simple but decent; you choose the line from a dropdown, and it finds the nearest stop. Shows both 38L & BX & regular at the same time.

    HopStop: Address-to-address. Seems to know about Amtrak but not Caltrain. Seems to have weird assumptions about how long things will take. Ads.

    Wait For It: Very simple, in a bad way. Like Droidmuni but without the automatic stop finder and combined L+AX+regular.

    MuniAlerts: Again, like Droidmuni, but with more clicks and without combined predictions.

    A new entry, all the way from Germany: “Öffi: Public Transp. Companion”
    This one’s intriguing. The trip planner’s a little odd, but the station finder is pretty good– finds the closest muni stops and lists which way to go, how far, and which buses are leaving next. Could use some improvement.

    nextbus.com/webkit: Actually, this is probably the best of the bunch. Only problem is that after a minute on the site I get “got old GPS location” error and have to reload.

  • Thanks for the update Alai. I just downloaded Droidmuni and am pretty happy with it so far, but time will tell! nextbus.com/webkit looks pretty solid, I’ll keep that in my back pocket, but I just prefer the feel of a native app (possibly a symptom of being a long-time iPhone user!).

    Cheers

  • Alex

    Gotta chime in here.  While I’m working on one Android app to rule them all I came across “Öffi – Public Transport Buddy”.  It’s free, and its interface is /very/ German.  So far I like it mostly for the navigation integration.  If you’re using an app that will query Google Navigation for directions, with you’ll get a choice between Google Nav (which does walking and driving) and Öffi (which gives you comprehensive transit trip planning).

    Lots of neat little UI elements (it is very pretty) here and there, but I think overall it’d work better on a tablet or large phone than on my smallish HVGA sized phone.

  • Alex

    (should have read I too came across Öffi)

  • B C

    Android users — try QuickMuni.  It’s free, has nearby stops, favorites, and maps.

  • Cam Saül

    MobileMuni’s a new one, it’s really good! http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mobilemuni/id526969058?mt=8

  • Ryan

    One of the best Muni apps for the Windows Phone:

    Muni Transit Guru:
    http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/apps/c36de617-57a3-4e02-b8ca-82c536917086 

  • @RoverSF is an awesome app for iOS and Android that gives you real-time point-to-point public transit routing – check it out! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rover/id569031708

  • Max

    This application I think is the best because very simple 🙂 It has only and all I need

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.uk.notanum.android.londonnextbus&hl=en_GB

  • ninja
  • Leslie Scott

    Smart phone apps today has become the most important and vital part of any business now a days.

    Well depending from person to person the use of software also varies. I am dependent on quickbooks time tracking software from Replicon – http://www.replicon.com/olp/quickbooks-time-tracking-solutions.aspx for the same. The reason behind using this software is that its been hassle free, cloud based, featured with user friendly interface and easy navigation.

  • Anonymous
  • Yat Man

    Muni Transi Guru for Windows Phone seems solid. The only thing missing is a visual tracker overlayed on a map which would be neat. But the time tracker seems pretty solid.

  • MuniStops

    I built MuniStops for the iOS platform with real time predictions.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/munistops/id897371121

  • Arun

    BARTonic for iOS – https://appsto.re/us/iYUM_.i

  • Move on map

    Real-time SFMTA/MUNI location https://moveonmap.com/sfo/lnE_1_30/

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