Muni’s on-time performance is all over the map, and The City’s hundreds of buses seemingly may not have adhered to a paper schedule since the year 1912.
That’s where NextMuni comes in, a service that tracks individual Muni bus and train arrival times. It is open-government data utilized by a number of apps. But in a field of crowded competitors, which apps will get you to your bus most efficiently?
We stood on Market Street, twiddled our thumbs on our smartphones, and hopped onto buses aplenty to track the accuracy of these apps (one surprising find: opening up Google Maps won’t help you, as it doesn’t use NextMuni data). Here’s our roundup of some transit apps tracking Muni in San Francisco — the good, the bad, and the broken.
Tracks Muni only
This Muni prediction app is easily the most visually pleasing of the bunch. Using GPS data, Pickup fills screens with colored tiles, each containing a numeral representing a bus line. Touch a tile and you’re given the option to choose outbound or inbound, and the stop you’d like to track the time of. This is cumbersome, and you can only save two favorite bus routes (though you do get alerts as your bus approaches). Points for style, but this app requires too many taps to get the information you need.
Tracks Muni, BART, walking
All of the apps we looked at predict the next bus, but Swyft flips the concept on its head. Instead of listing your favorite bus stops, you list your most commonly used locations. Tap the work icon, for instance, and you see three recommended travel methods: Walking, transit and Uber. Interestingly, the walking feature also lists the calories burned (this reporter would burn 368 calories in a 70-minute walk to work). The transit options to get to work are then all listed, including the price of the trip and the walking distance to each bus stop. Underneath the transit options, Swyft lists nearby Uber vehicles — even noting if surge pricing is in effect. For the everyday commuter, Swyft packs some unique ideas.
Tracks Muni and BART
iOS, free, Pro version available
The no-frills, reliable standby, Routesy, has a drop-down list of Muni routes to choose from in an easy-to-read text format. Once you’ve tapped one, the GPS automatically figures out which stop you’re at and presents you with a time. Easy. Scroll to the stop, tap and you’ve got the info. You can save your favorite stops into a handy bookmark list. Your 5-Fulton may be 20 minutes away, but at least you’ll know it quick. This app also has BART arrival times, and connects with Sidecar, Lyft and Uber for booking. Watch out, though: A recent Routesy bug occasionally erases your bookmarks.
Tracks Muni, BART, Caltrain
Android and iOS, free
Transit is tops among the various bus- and train-tracking apps we tried. It loads the nearest Muni bus, train, BART train and other transit options nearby, presented in colorful and visually pleasing rows. Each row shows the next bus, but a tap can show the next three buses. The real star of this app is the trip planner function, which can merge with your calendar and direct you to your scheduled events. Though Google Maps can give step by step directions, Transit’s directions are presented side by side with Next Bus times, a clear advantage.
Tracks most Bay Area transit
Quicky Transit lives up to its name. The app defaults to a nearby listing of bus and train routes going in both directions — the quickest access (and fewest screen taps) to next bus info of any of the apps. It also has an alarm function to notify of upcoming bus arrivals. This app was the only one we tested that occasionally gave us inaccurate arrival time data, listing a 5-Fulton as minutes away even as we watched it pull up to our stop. But if you test out the app and find the timing accurate, the immediacy of Quicky Transit’s layout makes it a strong transit app.
Tracks Muni only
Pocket Muni seems designed with the old-school Muni fan in mind. Its layout is in the same brown shade as Muni operators’ uniforms. Touching the ‘nearby’ feature will make classic orange Muni stop posts pop up on a map, and two touches of the signpost will bring you to a list of arrival times for that stop. Choosing favorites will quicken this process, but it’s still a lot of menus to tap through.