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Don't like iOS6's (lack of) transit directions? You need this. (github.com)
136 points by simonmaddox 1496 days ago | hide | past | web | 88 comments | favorite

I'm probably just going to pin http://maps.google.com to my front page and be done with it, unless of course Google releases a full-blown app (oh please oh please).

I'm doing this and I also added the bing app which, although it's a bit clunky, seemingly has transit directions.

I was hoping that link to lead to a product page for Lumia 920.

Hey guys. David Hodge here from Embark. I just wanted to let you know that we've got you covered for transit directions in many large cities. (And more being added all the time)

Look for Embark in NYC, Washington DC, Boston, London, Chicago, San Francisco. Embark will work underground and has results tailored to each city instead of the very general results you tend to get from Google Transit.

Hi David, I love your apps. Long time iBart user, but what would be nice is a single app that will cover making connections across transit systems. If I'm going to the South Bay tell me how to take Muni to BART or CalTrain and then BART /Caltrain to VA and how far to walk. THAT would be the killer feature that would making having no transit directions awesome.

Hi zbowling, great to hear you like our apps! Thank you for the suggestion. We'll keep that in mind for the future.

I'm in Rome, and it's simply not possible to get from most points A to B with crossing transit modes and transit brands – most trips need two or three, sometimes four.

Try getting from Pz. Belli in Trastevere to Villa d'Este in Tivoli in time for the 8:30 PM light show. Then try to get back when the train isn't running. Both trips involve an area bus or train, as well as local metro, bus, and tram. The downtown map comes with four brands' routes.

In Rome even Google isn't grasping this, but same is true of NYC, getting into the city, or heading from Newark to Queens, or Stamford to JFK and LGA.

The m.511.org site is serviceable if not beautiful and does what you're asking.

This is possibly the comment that you never want to hear when you have a nice-looking app, but I do find them a bit painful to use. Use of screen height and extra button presses are too key areas that give me grief. It could simply be something as subtle as the London Underground map defaults to too far zoomed-in. Maybe try changing that?

However, they are free, free from ads and work really well. I especially like the way they tell you the direction of the train you're going to get.

Hey Jof,

Thanks for the feedback. Generally people have been very happy with our apps, but we pay close attention if people have problems. We have a number of changes in store for London based on our user feedback. I'd really like to discuss these details with you sometime if you get a chance.


Very happy to help - I use apps like this perhaps 5 times a day so I have an interest in making them the best I can. Drop me a line.

PS, it's definitely the default zoom level. That and the Bookmarks would benefit as being Stars as they are more akin to Favorites. Took me a while to figure that. But again, I can't speak for everyone of course.

Are you going to be adding Seattle any time soon?

embark for chicago only seems to include the 'L', not the CTA bus routes?

It seems it's the same for Boston. Embark only has the T, no buses. Which is a shame, because the app looks great otherwise. It even shows hubway (bike rental) stations around the T stops.

David from Embark here. Yes, this is true. No busses presently. Stay tuned. We're working on it.

awesome - looking forward to the update.

Any chance San Diego is on your radar? :o)

How about just sticking with iOS 5 until Apple fixes this? Is it really that important to upgrade to 6? (obviously doesn't apply to the new phone)

The latest doesn't always mean the greatest.

That's little consolation to people who've bought the iPhone 5.

I've never understood why people like to pre-order something before even one review on it is released, or before they get a chance to see it for themselves.

Well I've used iPhones for several generations now. I pre-ordered before any reviews because I have a pretty good idea of what the general experience will be like and I'm looking to upgrade my phone to one with a larger screen and faster hardware. The iPhone 5 ticked those boxes for me while still allowing me to use my same apps and devices in my home. I'm not really interested in switching to an entirely different ecosystem at this time as I have a lot invested in this one.

It is unfortunate that the maps application is a step backward in some regards but I've been bracing myself for this since I first heard they were working on their own map app.

I don't live in a city where I rely on transit directions so that didn't effect me a lot but I can see how it would be frustrating to people who do. However, because I mostly drive everywhere the turn-by-turn directions is a huge addition for me. So, I'm not entirely disappointed in the new map app.

It's Apple. In the eyes of the faithful, they can't release a bad product.

As much as we may make fun of "fanbois", it's incredible the amount of loyalty, trust, and goodwill Apple has managed to generate for themselves.

Well, there's that, and there's also the fact that it's historically been a good bet with the iPhone to order each new model sight-unseen. That's been the case going back to the very first one.

Not every new iPhone or iOS version was a win in every respect over its predecessor, but this is the first time Apple has royally hosed its customers.

if you forget about the antenna gate

Antennagate was mostly a made-up thing, though. It served certain peoples' interests to turn it into a bigger deal than it was.

Maps is a huge part of the reason why I bought an iPhone in the first place. I would literally rather give up the ability to use it as a telephone than give up the ability to use it for navigation.

Are there any books or dissertations written on this phenomenon?

Certainly psychiatrists have a name for this by now? (I have never seen this level of loyalty anywhere else: Rock Stars, World Leaders or Religious heads..)

Its almost like some drug is leaking into their bodies from their iDevices which rest of us are not privy to.

> Are there any books or dissertations written on this phenomenon?

Absolutely ― Cult of Mac, by Leander Kahney[0].

0: http://www.amazon.com/The-Cult-Paperback-Leander-Kahney/dp/1...

Although not an Apple fan, I can relate to their purchasing behaviour through an analogy of my own:

I am a massive Pixar fan. I think almost everything they touch turns to gold and I haven't seen a Pixar movie that I dont' like (to be fair, the last new release I saw was Toy Story 3). When I saw the ad for WALL-E, I thought it sounded like a stupid idea for a movie, but I still forked out the $10 to go see it at the cinema. This decision was purely on their past record, nothing to do with my perception of WALL-E. Sure enough, I loved it.

Perhaps this is a similar way Apple fans make decisions.

So iOS 6 maps are Apple's equivalent of Cars 2?

Apple won't be fixing this. Their approach is to recommend transit apps depending on your location instead.

Which doesn't have to be a terrible idea. Explicitly encouraging transit app competition is great.

Now if only you could change the default handler for addresses to route to other mapping/direction programs. Once we get that, this teapot tempest will die out.

It is almost certainly a terrible idea for Apple.

Carriers already push iPhone alternatives for all sorts of reasons. It doesn't matter how good the third-party transit apps are. Not having transit routing built in is an "instant demo" for any carrier sales rep trying to push an Android or Windows Phone. And, last I heard, Apple sells far more iPhones through carriers that they sell directly...

Has everyone forgotten http://maps.google.com? From what I can tell you can get transit direction from their website and even place a shortcut to your Home Screen.

If you use Google's transit maps at all you'd know how it's pretty much a step below the original native Maps app. The only thing going for the mobile web version is bike routes otherwise it's still a below par experience compared to Maps.

It's not as good as the native maps app. In fact, I was just using it today. It's still slow and buggy (doesn't respond to all the taps).

But then what would all the blogs complain about?

If you're in London, check out http://Citymapper.com (their iPhone app saves me everyday with live bus timings and the best route with multiple transport options).

Co-Founder of Embark here (letsembark.com). We have apps for 12 systems, mostly in the US (BART, Caltrain, NYC, LIRR, MNR, NJT, DC Metro, Philly, CTA, Metra, Boston & London Tube). We also integrate with iOS 6 maps, so our apps should show up for you if they're relevant. In my subjective opinion, it's a way better experience than a google maps web view.

EDIT: Looks like my co-founder David beat me to the punch

I love Google Transit directions. Can you give some examples of where Embark beats out Google Transit (screenshots if possible)?

Also do you have real-time updates on arrival times with SF Muni? Google Transit does not.

Here's one example we saw recently in new york going from the 116th/Columbia stop to 12 St Marks Place. Google's result: http://i.imgur.com/8zpbY.png Our result: http://i.imgur.com/gpDu5.png & http://i.imgur.com/8hvrs.png

Currently we don't have an app for muni, though it's something we're working towards. There are some nice apps for Muni that have real-time arrivals but lack routing. Transporter & Routsey are probably the two best.

Not sure if Google is monitoring your posts or if their routing glitched before but doing the search just now gave me pretty much the same results on Google Maps... http://goo.gl/maps/fsfKF

Looks like they're watching. It had been like that for a couple weeks and still was up until the time I posted.

Having had the beta for so long I hadn't actually expected integration with maps, I figured it'd just tell you that there were other apps available. I'll definitely be moving to embark for the time being!

Wow, this is a true hacker at work. Getting things done rather than yelling around. Thank you so much for this.

Agreed. This is a refreshing submission after all of these rant-y blog posts we've been seeing lately.

Somewhat off-topic, but does anyone in SF who rides public transportation agree that Google's Map directions in terms of time predictions don't work? Like they're almost always completely wrong. I wonder if they use scheduled bus times instead of actual ones.

Anyway, I was hoping to be able to plug in something like Routesy to iOS 6 maps, and then I'd be a happy camper.

We've found that Google has historically had a very hard time in San Francisco, and many other big cities for that matter. The results often seem reasonable at first, but end up being impractical in practice. We've found that getting good routing results in cities like SF requires a lot of attention to detail in each particular city. Google has very smart people, but they can't focus everywhere at once.

Disclaimer, I work at Embark and we make transit apps. (letsembark.com)

Edit: it also doesn't help that Muni often doesn't run on schedule.

It shouldn't matter if they don't run on schedule because every bus/train has a GPS on it from which you can make predictions. iCommuteSF and Routesy (and i'm sure others) use this to give me results that are accurate the vast majority of the time.

There's no universally accepted API for the real-time data unlike the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) for theoretical schedules. You can approach some commonality with Nextbus API/scraping (http://www.nextbus.com/predictor/agencySelector.jsp) but not every agency offering real-time data uses it.

So iCommuteSF might very well be doable, but you can't use that everywhere like you can Google Maps with GTFS.

I didn't mean to imply you could do it everywhere. I was specifically replying to the part about "MUNI" in the parent comment. The geo data for current MUNI positions is public data. So if you are making an SFMUNI specific app, there's no excuse not to use it.

Also, I didn't realize that embark also does routing, which is more than iCommuteSF and Routesy do.

Yes, however Muni's own signs at the stops often make inaccurate predictions. As an occasional Muni rider, I've often waited for a bus or a train only to find that it's not in service. There are also frequent "ghost buses", where the minutes count down to zero but no bus shows up.

In other words, although I'm certain the transit apps could stand to improve, I don't think even Muni has accurate data.

Most transit companies don't have a real time feed. The key piece of information is how often the bus runs anyway!

I'm pretty sure Google Maps and a plethora of other applications on the App Store simply use the MUNI schedules (http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mroutes/schedules.htm) for the purposes of "time prediction." Since buses in SF are basically never time due to many reasons (traffic, accidents, once I was on a bus where the trainee who was driving took the wrong exit on the way to Daly City BART and the actual Muni driver on the bus had to take over the wheel) the predictions are never accurate.

The only app that has done me right is Transporter, and I'm pretty sure it scrapes Nextbus or some other service for time predictions.

No need to scrape, even. NextBus has a public API.

I also have noticed this in SF. It becomes most frustrating when I want to travel to a location using routes I am unfamiliar with or don't ride often. This means I can't off the top of my head guess when the next bus would be coming before choosing that bus route. In that case I usually pick a live route app like Transporter to see how long of a wait till that bus comes. Unfortunately, that time spent in another application can prove costly if you are in a hurry.

Totally agree. I use Google Maps for "route ideas" if I don't already know. And then switch to Routesy ASAP for the live arrivals.

Unless specifically indicated as live times, Google uses the scheduled times. I've seen live times in Google Maps in only one area, Portland, OR.

Scheduled times are coming from GTFS feeds that agencies register with Google. As far as I know, Google didn't create a unified live transit predictions/tracking API, which seems to me a rather surprising oversight.

It might be speed. I've written an app for SF using the NextBus API, and it is slow. In the time it would take to return the live times for a particular route at a particular stop, Google has already given me four possible routes (and has helpfully gotten me a glass of water, as well).

True. In my experiences scraping Vancouver's Translink, I can get a prediction in about a second or so, but not fully reliably.

On the other hand, if there's anyone that could speed up receiving, processing, and retrieving lots of rapidly changing data, it might be Google.

NextMuni (Muni's app) is the best for SF imo.

Or, use the bing app. I am not a fan of their ux but it sure works well!

I searched for "logan airport, boston" and didn't receive any results :-/

How do the Bing map's transit directions compare to the old iOS maps app?

Guys, I'm from HopStop. Our app has got you covered for your public transit needs. We support lots of cities in the USA, Canada and some in Europe. We also have some nice features other than transit directions, such as schedules and transit maps. Check us out!

Note: Maps integration coming soon for our iPhone app. Our iPad app is already working fine with Maps.

Make a paid version so I can get rid of the ads!

Can anybody explain why Google can't simply make a version of google maps that is installable through Safari (they way Steve wanted apps to be delivered?) You need absolutely no permission from Apple, and their app already works on the web (just used it to get directions, in fact).

Possibly they might not have been interested in fixing their competitor's mistakes for them.

Bing is a competitor to Google.

IOS is a complement, which Google is trying to make a commodity through Android (and Chrome, its involvment is Google Fiber as well as its monetary donations to Firefox).

Google has no issue with IOS having access to excellent apps. They just don't want them to get a monopoly position.

They have that.

Sweet! Any plans to put this on the app store? I'd love to recommend an easy fix for my parents that doesn't involve my dev certs.

Oh, and I'll happily pay for the app... Somewhere between $0 and $5 seems about right.

I just learned about Lumatic today (http://lumatic.com/) and it seems like a worthy replacement for transit directions in many places.

Here in Boston it seems to think that I am not near any transit, but it does happily use the transit near my house to route me on different trips. I like the landmark-based turn-by-turn navigation -- I hope that's something that becomes more useful as time goes on.

Is this in the app store or what?

No, it's open-source.

In order to run it on your iPhone, you'll have to pay Apple $100 per year. Or find somebody who is already in Apple Developer program, ask him to add your iPhone ID.

Someone should start a "iDevBuddy" site, where people can pay a dev for use of her/his unused provisioning slots and install their own software.

I'm pretty sure Apple would consider that a violation of their rules.

Didn't stop people from doing the same general thing in regards to the iOS beta.

Open source apps can be in the app store, like openmbta

No. You need the $99USD/year iOS developer program from Apple to be able to compile it and install it on an actual iOS device (without it being jail broken).

I can only speak for my setup (I have Embark NYC installed), but the new Maps app delegates transit routing to Embark NYC. Presumably this works for other cities?

So far for me yes. Interestingly enough since I live in DC - I never had transit directions in Google Maps anyway.

Or maybe it was just me or I gave up trying, they appear to be there now at least on the website, no transit layer to view, but directions do appear.

WMATA finally got their act together and opened their data to Google sometime in the last year or so. They refused to do so for the longest time because, as I recall, they didn't want to lose advertising revenue from wmata.com. Revenue which amounted to something like $50,000/year, out of a budget of hundreds of millions. Anyway, Google is pretty good at DC transit routing these days, at least in my experience.

Major cities here in Italy are all very well covered with transit directions, pretty surprising it's not like that for US cities.

It's not so much that. If I'm at home in Brooklyn and want to get to a place in Manhattan, there might be two ways to go. Google maps calculates what the fastest way is, including walk time and train connections, and gives me a route that shows the stops, walking directions, and connections.

Thank you for releasing this as open-source.

Thank you so much for this kind sir!

Just don't use it.

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