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Leonard Sperry

Whimsical musings of a Software Engineer, Seattlite, and Father

Seattle WP8 Transit Apps

by Leonard

Do you live in the Seattle area, own a Windows Phone, and ride public transit?  The market place has several apps that will show you arrival times. Which app is best for your commute?  That’s what we’re here to answer.

While there are multiple transit apps that tie into various transit authorities in the Seattle Metro area,  this review is targeted at those apps that will help the daily commuter.  There are 3 apps that I have found to be the most useful and best of all, they are free!  They are OneBusAway, Komute, and Transit Seattle.  Each have features the others don’t have and each have their flaws.

OneBusAway

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OneBusAwayis a great service, and their site promotes the OneBusAway app.  Several other apps actually tie into the OneBusAway service.  The thing I like about this app is that it is simple.  You can see real time arrival information for a particular stop or for a specific route at a stop.  Like the others, it allows you to save your favorites, see stops near you.  It also remembers routes/stops that you have looked at recently.  If you need to look at a route that is not near you, it also has a search feature.

All the apps have a view showing all the routes for a particular stop, and each do something different when you touch (click) a route.  This app will filter that stop to that route and show you then next few arrivals for that route only.  This is great for the daily commuter because, chances are, you already know the route. You want to know what your options are for that route.

It does have one feature the other apps do not have that I absolutely love.  You see, the stop near my house, at least twice per week will report that the bus is running 10+ minutes early.  This is obviously bad data being reported by the transit system because busses are not allowed to run that early.  When I see that, I know that my bus will actually be arriving about 10 minutes later and this feature saves me 10 minutes of standing in the rain.

Komute

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This app has quite a different feel.  Until you get used to it, navigating it can seem a little clunky.  For example, when you save favorites and you want to manage them, you have to go look for them and open another list.  The other apps make it very easy to get to all your favorites.  Instead, when you open this app, it shows you the stops from your favorites that are near you.  Also, this app just throw the data up on the screen and expects you to know what it means.  At first I had trouble telling the difference between a route number and the minutes until arrival.  Some routes have and “E” next to the arrival time.  I think it means Express, but I could be wrong.  Because this app doesn’t have all the extra words on the screen, it leaves more room to put the data that you care about.  For example, when looking at a stop, you can see the next several arrival times for all the routes as shown in the second image above.

When you are looking at a the view for a stop and you touch the route, it takes you to a map of that route.  This could be really handy if you’re at a stop and you want to know which routes are headed in a general direction.  As a daily commuter, this is not a view I need to see because I already know where the route is going, but it could come in handy.

This app does have one feature that really sets it apart from the rest.  When you are looking at the map, you can filter the shown stops based on the direction of travel.

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This is really great when you are looking at a view of downtown and there are a lot of stops very close to each other.  It gets rid of all the stops you don’t care about making it much easier to get to those you do care about.

 

Transit Seattle

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This app, by far, has the most polish on it.  It looks very slick.  If you are commuting through multiple transit agencies, you’ll love that this app covers a lot of different agencies.  This review however is going to just focus on the Metro Transit information.  After opening this app, it can take you several touches and swipes to get to the information you need.  It just has too much information to get to everything in short order.  To fix this, it has one of the coolest features out of any of the 3 in this review.  You can pin a specific route or stop to your start page.  This is great!  In the morning you can get to your route and stop with just one touch. Have a second or third pinned for your evening commute when your trying to hurry out of the office.  Unfortunately, they are not live tiles.  They are only deep links into the app.  Still, it is a great feature.  The app also offers to show you maps of the entire transit system broken down by area.

The view for a specific stop has a lot of wasted space on the screen.  While it looks gorgeous, there is a lot of space taken up titles and trying to separate the information with borders.  If you compare this view to OneBusAway, it becomes very apparent when you look at the size of the map on the screen.  From this view, when you touch a route, you are taken to a list of all the stops for that route.  That list will show you all the other routes you could connect to as shown in the second image below.  This is great if you know where all those other routes go or even know several options for getting home, but if you’re like me, you only know a handful of routes and this is a lot of information on the screen that essentially means nothing.

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Despite how slick this app looks and the sheer amount of information you can get to with it, it does have one very fatal flaw.  A few months back several stops were moved downtown.  One of those stops was mine.  It moved from the corner of 3rd & Pine to the corner of 3rd & Pike along with a few other routes.  Unfortunately, the app still shows my route arriving at Pine St. and you can’t view my route at the correct stop.  This means that there is never any information for my commute home.  This affectively renders the app unusable for me, and raises some serious questions about the integrity of the data throughout the entire app.

 

Edit: There have been several updates and I believe the above issue has been fixed

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Review

If I could have my cake and eat it too, I would choose an app with the simplicity of OneBusAway, the map from Komute, and the pinning of my stop to the start from Transit Seattle, but alas that is not possible.  So, which app do I use?  Drum roll please…. I use OneBusAway and here’s why.  It has all the information I’m looking for in a way that’s easy to navigate.  It’s not filled with a bunch of extra fluff, and it has one view of the information that the others don’t' have.  It will show on the same screen both when the bus is estimated to arrive and when it should be.  If any app could show me that information and allow me to pin multiple stops to the start screen with live updates, it would be a no brainer and get 5 stars from this critic.


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About the author

Leonard is a Software Engineer who works for a web CMS firm in Seattle Washington.  He is the primary technical contractor for Seattle Engraving.   Where he built a custom CRM to help manage customer interactions and will soon be rolling out a new and improved website based on Orchard CMS.

He has lived in the Puget Sound region for most of his life, and is a father of 3.

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