The best Chicago transit apps for iOS 6 devices


I have 9 transit apps installed, including 1 for Portland, Oregon. Seven are reviewed here.

If you upgraded your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad this week, you’ll find yourself without transit directions in the built-in Maps application. Wednesday was the first day you could download and install the latest version of iOS 6, your iDevice’s operating system. The Maps app was previously powered by all things Google but in iOS 6 the app is powered by Apple-owned technologies and partner companies’ data. It’s been known for months that the new Maps app wouldn’t come with built-in transit directions. (However, Apple Maps does scan your phone for compatible transit apps and links you to them, or helps you find them in the App Store.)

Don’t fret, though, as there are several apps for free and purchase that take over transit directions duty. I’ll review six apps, some of which I downloaded after I started writing this post. Visit the CTA’s Transit Apps webpage for more apps.

See all the screenshots created for this post.

Buster (CTA)

Download for $1.99. Arrival times, no trip planning.

Buster has four features: a bus route list (from which you can find a specific stop), find bus stops near where you’re currently standing, favorite bus stops, and an interface to the CTA mobile Train Tracker website. The first three are quite standard among Chicago transit apps, but each has a unique way of helping you find “your” stops and bookmarking them. Continue reading The best Chicago transit apps for iOS 6 devices

Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations


A Metra train crosses Canal Street in downtown Chicago. Photo by David Wilson. 

There are 6 articles in this transit-focused edition of Grid Bits, a sporadically occurring category of posts that summarize and link to recent articles in other news media. At the end you’ll find two Grid Chicago-authored commentaries. The first attempting to explain the logistical reasons why CTA’s Blue and Red Lines, the busiest, don’t have 5000-series cars; the second recommending a possible weekend-only pilot project to allow bicycles on South Shore trains.

In the federal transportation bill that was signed into law in early July, a provision was included that requires the Federal Transit Administration to work with state departments of transportation to develop safety regulations for transit providers across the country (including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace). No such regulation currently exists, as it does for intercity bus travel, air travel, and highways, among other modes. Transit agencies, understanding consequences of poor emergency responses, have been self-regulating. It remains to be seen if such regulation will be an improvement over past self-regulation. The Chicago Tribune reports: Continue reading Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations

Summary of transportation and transit changes because of NATO summit


The Lakefront Trail will be closed from Balbo Drive to 31st Street. 

The upcoming NATO summit will greatly alter how people travel in the Loop, South Loop, Museum Campus, and Bronzeville areas May 19, 20, and 21 (Saturday to Monday). Travel on the Kennedy, Dan Ryan, and Stevenson Expressways will be affected. Transit agencies and other news sources have posted all the relevant information, linked on this page. If you are traveling to these areas, or normally travel through these areas, spend time reviewing the below webpages. This post will be updated as information changes.

How will these changes affect you? Continue reading Summary of transportation and transit changes because of NATO summit

Drink and don’t drive at these transit-friendly taverns


After less than six months online, Grid Chicago passed the 100,000 pageview landmark yesterday. Thanks a lot to all our sponsors and readers for helping us achieve this milestone!

[This piece also ran in Time Out Chicago.]

Metra’s beloved bar cars made their final run last some time ago, but you can still railroad tie one on at taverns inside the stations while waiting for the 6:15. And thanks to liberal alcohol policies on regional rail (hear that CTA?) all these pubs offer to-gos to enjoy on your car-free commute. Be sure to toast the poor souls stuck in buzz-killing traffic on the expressways.

By the Great Hall at Union Station, 200 S. Canal, Metro Deli and Café has old-timey décor like a photo of Richard J. grinning under a “We love Mayor Daley” banner. Goose Island and Blue Moon are on tap at the large, oval bar, and there’s pool tables, video poker and Wednesday karaoke. Upstairs in the food court the three-level bar The Snuggery features vintage photos of greats like Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters. A barmaid at a separate station sells tallboy and drafts in lidded plastic cups to time-strapped salarymen. Continue reading Drink and don’t drive at these transit-friendly taverns

Open discussion: What suggestions do you have for bikes on trains?

Update: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) blogged a new report about this connection. I haven’t read it yet, though. 

I am passionate about the nexus of bicycling and transit, and I’ve written often on Steven Can Plan about how bikes are stored on trains in the United States and around the world. When I travel, I look at this relationship closely.


Bikes on the subway in Seoul, South Korea. Photographer unknown. 

Recently I’ve had several discussions with people (the latest while volunteering at Pitchfork Festival in early July 2011) about getting bikes on the South Shore Line that goes to Indiana. What I’ve learned is that it will probably take an act of legislation to make this happen, as well as a reconfiguration of the trains. This is what forced Metra to change its policies, but they caved before the legislation passed. Continue reading Open discussion: What suggestions do you have for bikes on trains?

Car-free camping in the Indiana Dunes


The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore might be the most beautiful place in the Hoosier State—which, to some, might not sound like much of a ringing endorsement, especially since it’s flanked by steel mills and power plants. But this nearby national park features 25 miles of natural beach, hiking trails through forests, prairies and marshes. And, of course, there are the dunes themselves: massive mountains of fine sand, perfect for a sliding barefoot sprint and leap.

Bring your tent, sleeping bag and camping gear and head to Millennium Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue to catch the South Shore Line train (round-trip ticket, $13.60). The South Shore does not allow conventional bikes onboard; however, folding bikes are permitted and would be useful for exploring the greater Dunes area. It’s a relaxing, scenic, 90-minute train ride to the Beverly Shores stop and the national lakeshore’s Dunewood Campground.

Continue reading Car-free camping in the Indiana Dunes