Tracking transit: Three apps for Android reviewed


Even though the train platform heaters have started working (since November 1) the cold might still prevent you from wanting to wait there for any longer than you need to. These transit apps for Android can help you bide your time. Photo by Chicago Transit Authority.

Ed. note – This guest post was contributed by Nick Puczkowskyj, one of the producers of this year’s Cycle Messenger World Championship, and a daily Chicago Transit Authority rider. Nick offered to test transit apps for Android after seeing our review of iOS transit apps proceeding the iOS 6-Apple Maps debacle. 

For the commuter who needs to be in the know at all times, there are several apps available for Android phones. I went about testing three popular Chicago transit apps on my Samsung Galaxy S II. The apps were put through all of the same hurdles for my commute, which involves both bus and rail. Each app was used entirely for one day and then all three were used at once for one day. Every app was able to assist me with every part of my commute. However, some had stronger attributes than others.

Continue reading Tracking transit: Three apps for Android reviewed

Comparing three Android transit tracker apps


Transit Tracks makes it very easy to find stops near you, and doesn’t place restrictions on how many appear in the map. 

I reviewed only the free versions. Updated October 19, 2011, to add a third transit tracker app.

Chicago Transit Tracker Lite Transit Tracks TreKing 4 Free
  • Locates nearest bus stop
  • Shows system alerts from CTA
  • Shows current temperature
  • Shows time of last update
  • Locates ALL nearby bus stops using your GPS
  • Has a more logical method to manually select bus stops and train stations
  • Allows you to group favorite stops/stations
  • Has better aesthetics – easier to read favorites listing
  • User swipes the screen to show the opposite direction bus or train
  • System map shows the familiar Google Maps and allows user to select nearby bus stops and train stations
  • When no more service, reports “No running buses”
  • Pro version offers Metra schedules and Pace bus predictions (I didn’t test this)
  • Very logical method to select your bus stop or train station (this is called a “trek”)
  • Lets you save a custom name for a specific stop or station (but gives predefined name)
  • Allows you to group saved stops/stations
  • Quick Treks feature locates nearby stops and stations
  • Pro version has a trip planner (“Trek Planner”)
  • Move, rename, or delete groups by holding your finger on the group (very easy)
  • It appears you can set alerts in the pay version that tell you when to get off the bus/train, or when the bus/train is about to arrive
  • In the pay version you can add time to the prediction so you’re less likely to miss a bus/train if it’s early
  • Only displays a single nearby bus stop in free version using your GPS
  • Shows ads in free version
  • Favorites listing appears in a confusing way
  • Shows ALL system alerts, and not ones relevant to my favorite routes
  • System map loads a CTA website
  • When no more service, reports “No arrival times”
  • To add a favorite stop manually, text search function works in unexpected way
  • To add a favorite stop manually, the choices are confusing. There are 4 choices for Addison-Blue, one for each possible terminus (Forest Park, Jefferson Park, O’Hare, UIC)
  • Does not retrieve system alerts from CTA
  • Does not show temperature
  • Does not show time of last update
  • Shows ads
  • When you first select CTA Trains as the system you want to track, a huge list of confusing caveats shows up. I don’t think they’re all true.
  • Method to select your trip route takes a lot of time
  • Selecting a “To Stop”, which is optional, doesn’t change anything
  • Shows ads
  • Quick Trek feature in free version limited to 1/8th mile (one block)
  • There isn’t a function you do without the app showing a popup to tell you about the pay version
  • Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus stop with ID 1
  • Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus route with route 1, Indiana/Hyde Park
  • Map in free version doesn’t show bus location in real-time
  • “Trek Planner” in free version only shows trip from your location to Sears Tower or Navy Pier – your choice!

On grouping: One group could be for the stops/stations you use to get to work and the other group could be for the return trip.

My recommendation: Transit Tracks. It’s very hard to review TreKing 4 Free because it seems most features are only available in the pay version.