Best apps for navigating public transport
Navigating public transport can sometimes be challenging if you have a vision impairment but there are several apps that can help make it more accessible and convenient for you.
These apps utilise various features such as audio instructions, real-time navigation, real-time updates, and accessible route planning – empowering you to more confidently navigate public transport systems and reach your destinations more efficiently. Below we list some of the best apps for navigating public transport.
Google Maps is a widely-used app offering comprehensive mapping and navigation, using satellite imagery, authoritative mapping data, and user contributions. Available on iOS, Android, and as a website, it includes street view, traffic, public transport, and indoor maps.
Google Maps can be particularly helpful when used alongside other apps like Lazarillo, a popular app specifically designed for people with sight loss or WeWalk, a smart cane that integrates with mobile apps to provide enhanced navigation support, as Google Maps is able to switch between these apps seamlessly.
Apple Maps is a widely used navigation app available on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Macs. While it is not specifically designed for people with vision impairment, it does offer some features that can assist in navigating public transport, such as:
- Step-by-Step Directions: The app provides turn-by-turn audio instructions for various modes of transportation, including walking, driving, and public transport as well as information about public transport routes, schedules, and nearby stations. Apple Maps will also provide accessible transport options along with estimated travel times.
- VoiceOver: Apple Maps is compatible with VoiceOver, a built-in screen reader on Apple devices. VoiceOver reads out the information on the screen, and you can receive spoken instructions and navigate the app through voice commands.
- Integration: Apple Maps is tightly integrated with other native apps on Apple devices, such as Siri (the virtual assistant) and the Calendar app. So, you can ask Siri for directions or create event-based reminders that trigger navigation prompts in Apple Maps.
While Apple Maps offers some good accessibility features, it's worth noting that the experience may vary depending on your preferences and needs. Some users may find third-party apps like Lazarillo or WeWalk, as mentioned earlier, to be better tailored specifically for the needs of individuals with vision impairments.
Moovit, a popular journey-planning app and website, assists in navigating public transport with detailed step-by-step directions for iOS and Android users. The app offers a range of features including:
- Accessible route options: Considers factors like step-free access and elevators.
- Live Directions: Provides audio and visual guidance, notifying you when to board and disembark public transport and remaining distance to your destination.
While generally user-friendly, some vision-impaired users reported minor accessibility issues with VoiceOver support, which can be toggled for optimal usability.
Trainline is a popular online website and mobile app (iOS and Android) for train travel information, booking, and ticketing. It covers journeys across the UK and Europe, offering accessible planning with route options, train availability, and travel times. E-tickets and mobile tickets are available for convenience.
The website aims to be as accessible as possible, by entering your departure and destination locations, and date of travel Trainline provides options for available trains, connections, and travel times so you can plan your route. You’re also able to find out about any delays and which platform your train is expected at ahead of time.
However, as a third-party service, Trainline charges booking fees. The platform aims to simplify train travel with comprehensive information and ticketing options.
Available on both iOS and Android platforms, Citymapper is another popular website and app for planning and navigating routes in cities around the world and offers a range of features including:
- Journey Planning: Citymapper allows you to input your starting point and destination, and provides various options for traveling between the two points using public transport.
- Step-Free Routes: One of the notable features of Citymapper is its ability to suggest step-free routes and specific guidance on which part of a train to board for easy access to exits or connections.
- Real-Time Information: The app alerts you to changes in routes or service disruptions, allowing you to adjust your plans accordingly.
- Detailed Directions: The app offers detailed step-by-step directions, both visually and audibly, to guide you throughout your journey.
- Integration with Accessibility Features: Citymapper integrates well with accessibility features on mobile devices, such as VoiceOver on iOS.
Citymapper offers other useful features, including estimated costs for different travel options, bike-sharing information, and even the availability of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft within the app and is a popular choice for its comprehensive and user-friendly approach to planning and navigating public transport within cities.
First Bus is another well-known app and website that focuses on planning and navigating bus journeys in many cities and towns across the UK. It offers a range of features such as:
- Journey Planning: The First Bus app allows you to plan your bus journeys by inputting your starting point and destination. It provides options for various routes and bus services available, including information on transfers and estimated travel times.
- Real-Time Bus Tracking: One of the notable features of the First Bus app is its real-time bus tracking functionality. You can see the live location of buses on the map, allowing you to know when the next bus will arrive at your stop.
- Ticket Booking: The app allows you to purchase bus tickets directly, eliminating the need for cash or paper tickets - so you don’t need to worry about losing your ticket or having the correct change.
First Bus has an accessibility statement on its website, outlining its commitment to providing accessible services and information. While First Bus strives to provide an accessible experience, it's important to note that the accessibility features and experiences may vary depending on the specific region or city where the bus services operate. So, it’s worth reviewing the accessibility information provided by First Bus for your specific area or contacting the local bus company directly for more detailed accessibility information.
Traveline Scotland is an app specifically designed to assist in finding bus stop information, tracking bus routes, and checking departure times in Scotland. It offers a range of features when using the bus system in Scotland such as:
- Bus Stop Tracker: The Traveline Scotland app includes a bus stop tracker feature that helps locate nearby bus stops and provides real-time information on which buses are coming next.
- Departure Times: By accessing the app you are able to check the next departure times for buses from your chosen bus stops.
- Bus Route Tracking: The app allows you to track the progress of your bus route while on board and provides information on upcoming stops, ensuring you are aware of your current location and when your destination stop is approaching.
- Audio Assistance: Traveline Scotland also offers audio assistance such as audio announcements of bus stops, next departures, and other relevant information.
- Accessibility Information: The app provides accessibility information about bus services, including details on wheelchair accessibility, priority seating, and other facilities for individuals with disabilities.
UK bus checker
UK Bus Checker is a national app designed to help check bus times and track buses at various bus stops across the UK. It offers:
- Bus Timetables: UK Bus Checker provides access to up-to-date bus timetables for different bus routes in the UK. You can search for specific bus stops or routes to view the scheduled arrival and departure times of buses.
- Real-Time Bus Tracking: The app incorporates real-time bus tracking functionality, which allows you to see the live location of buses on the map.
- Favourites and Alerts: You are able to save your favourite bus stops or routes for quick access as well as set up alerts to receive notifications when buses are approaching your selected stops.
While specific accessibility features may vary depending on the bus operators and regions, the app provides information on wheelchair accessibility, accessible bus stops, and any other relevant accessibility features that may be available on specific bus routes or services.
Trainpal is a mobile app that focuses on providing a convenient way to book train tickets and plan your train journeys. It offers several features including:
- Ticket Booking: Trainpal allows you to search for train tickets and book them directly through the app – eliminating the need to visit multiple websites or go to the train station to purchase tickets, providing a convenient and time-saving option.
- No Booking Fees: One notable feature of Trainpal is that it strives to offer train tickets without any additional booking fees.
- Real-Time Train Information: The app provides real-time information on train schedules, including arrival and departure times.
- Ease of Use: Trainpal aims to provide a user-friendly experience with a simple and intuitive interface. This makes it easier for users to navigate the app, search for train tickets, and complete bookings with minimal hassle.
GoodMaps aims to provide accessible and accurate navigation for individuals with vision impairments. The app uses Bluetooth beacons and other technologies to provide step-by-step audio instructions to guide you to your desired destinations, including:
- Indoor Navigation: Good Maps specialises in indoor navigation, making it particularly useful for navigating complex indoor spaces such as airports, shopping malls, and other large buildings.
- Accessible Maps: Detailed and accessible maps that can be accessed through the app and provide important information such as points of interest, landmarks, and detailed navigation routes.
- Audio Cues and Haptic Feedback: You can receive spoken instructions and tactile feedback through your device to assist in following the navigation instructions accurately.
- User-Friendly Interface: The app is designed with a user-friendly interface. It prioritises accessibility features such as large, high-contrast text and intuitive navigation controls.
- Explore Feature: Good Maps also offers an "Explore" feature, allowing you to discover nearby points of interest, including restaurants, shops, and other amenities.
It's important to note that the specific functionality and availability of Good Maps may vary based on the region and the level of integration with local maps and services.
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