11 Best Transit Apps for MTA Riders and Commuters in NYC and Beyond

| July 25, 2012 4:00 AM video

In recent years, transit apps have become significantly more sophisticated.  Users can plan their subway trips even when they’re underground, use augmented reality to spot the nearest station and pit themselves in virtual bicycling competitions with others who use the same route, and take advantage of a host of other innovative services. MetroFocus looked at some of the most handy apps to hit the tri-state in the past few years.

For the Well Traveled: Subway, Commuter Rails and Buses, Roads and More

The interface of the Roadify app shows the wide variety of transit options available to users. Image courtesy of roadify.com


Available for: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

Cost: Free

What it does: Roadify won the city’s second BigApps competition in 2011. The app mixes together schedules, service alerts and delays for the subways, MetroNorth, LIRR, New Jersey Transit, PATH, ferries, roads and bridges. It adds another level of user experience by crowdsourcing updates about travel conditions by other users.

511 NY Mobile

Available for: iPhone, Blackberry and Android

Cost: Free

What it does: Launched in 2010 and updated multiple times since, the 511 app features a variety of functions based on an array of transit from all over New York State. Users can get updated information about road, transit conditions and weather conditions and view live feeds of roads all over New York. The app also includes a trip planner for drivers and public transportation riders, which works similarly to Google Maps’ directions.


For NYC  Bus and Subway Riders

Embark NYC

Available for: iPhone and Android

Cost: Free

What it does: The grand prize winner of this year’s MTA Appquest competition organizes a variety of information to plan your subway trip. The best part is that it works even when you’re underground!It’s a trip planner that automatically updates your schedule based on train delays, and its sleek design allows you to toggle between maps and saved destinations.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg works on his iPad while waiting for a subway, Wednesday, July 14, 2010 in New York City. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan.

Exit Strategy

Available for: iPhone, but simplified versions are available for Blackberry, Android and Kindle

Cost: $4.99

What it does: New Yorkers are efficient and neurotic, if nothing else, and the Exit Strategy subway app harnesses the power of both personality quirks. The app tells users where they should stand on the subway platform in order to be in the best position to get to the exit nearest their final destination or transfer. The latest version of the app also includes maps showing all the train and bus stops in the city.


Available for: iPhone, but a similar app, SchedNYC, is available for Android

Cost: $1.99

What it does: In 2011, the MTA equipped the B63 bus in Brooklyn and the X1 and S62 in Staten Island, with a GPS tracking system called BusTime. The system allows riders to use their phones to find out when the next bus is coming, and the InTimeNYC app is the most sophisticated way to use the system.


The MTA explains its BusTime technology, compatible with the InTimeNYC app. Video courtesy of the MTA

NYC Station Finder

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

Cost: Free

What it does: The app uses augmented reality to show you where the nearest subway station is. Just hold your camera up and your phone will guide you there, and give you directions to your destination.

A subway rider swipes a MetroCard through the turnstiles in New York. AP Photo/Seth Wenig.

Refill My MetroCard!

Available for: Android and Blackberry

Cost: Free

What it does: If you don’t have an unlimited card, it’s a constant annoyance figuring out how much money to add to your MetroCard so you come away with an even balance. The app fixes the problem by doing the math for you. Simply enter your balance, and the app gives you options for how much to pay.

For Cab Riders


Available for: iPhone and Android

Cost: Free

What it does: New York City installed GPS systems in its 13,000 yellow cabs back in 2009, and the app Hailo harnesses the technology, allowing you to find the nearest cabs, wherever you are. As an added bonus, the app lets you pay for the cab from your phone.

For Cyclists

Ride the City

Available for: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad

Cost: $1.99

What it does: Ride the City is a trip planner that let’s you map a safe bike route, sticking to bike lanes whenever possible. The app also shows you where the nearest bike shops are.


Available for: iPhone and Android

Cost: Free

What it does: Strava was built for cyclists who like a little competition. The app lets cyclists take a given route and compare their average speed and time to other cyclists who’ve taken the route. It also supplies a variety of other metrics, including heart rate and elevation gain, that you can compare with your friends as well as total strangers.

For New Jersey Commuters

iTrans NJT

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

Cost: $2.99

What it does: iTrans lets New Jersey Transit riders plan their routes using either text or a map, with live service updates. Best of all, it stores schedules offline so you can use it even when you’re underground.

“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation” premieres on Tuesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; Wednesday, July 25 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and Thursday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

  • Buuuffalo

    You left out the best public transit app out there: HopStop

  • Kevin G

    But if you are driving in New Jersey be careful, they give out
    tickets like they’re going out of style. This cause was featured on ABC
    News this morning –


  • aly

    For iOS users here is one that’s even better – Subway Gopher. Works offline, works consistently and dependable. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/subway-gopher/id600603318?ls=1&mt=8&

  • Frank
  • Hugo

    If you have a Mac and commute by Bus http://www.swishly.com/nudgeme/nextbus-app-for-mac is super-handy.

  • Dougdo

    Embark seems to no longer have an app for Android.

    • halp

      if anyone knows of a good Android alternative, please let me know!

  • carlosp_uk

    And a quick plug for our own brand new bus app too – NYC Bus Checker! iOS or Android, live bus times, route maps & CitiBike dock info. Free: http://www.buschecker.com?app=NYC

  • Stuck on NJT

    The NJT app, at least on the Android, is the WORST garbage – it was obviously provided by government employees.

    The concept is overdue, but the stress of counting on such a poorly written and undependable app, bringing on the misdirected ire of the conductors is so not worth it.

    DONE – going back to stupid paper tickets!

    The top three flaws that make this unuseable:

    1. It takes way too long to come up. You sit there red-faced while the conductor gives you attitude.

    2. It doesn’t cache any information – That is, it doesn’t know that you have a valid ticket if you don’t have an internet connection on your phone. So when in any of the many dead spots in Penn Station, the tunnel, between the tunnel and Newark, etc., you are dead if the conductor comes around.

    3. The most disgusting and unforgiveable, it has this weird timer countdown on monthly pass display, so you can’t just bring up the ticket and have it ready or else it will expire on you!!! These people are sick and stupid.

    I know – It does seem ridiculous to wait in line at those stupid ticket machines in this century, but their idea of a smart-phone app is even more ridiculous and annoying than those ridiculous and annoying ticket machines.

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