5 public transportation apps for big cities

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Using a bus or subway might be the easiest way for college students to commute across some of America’s largest cities.

It’s not easy moving to a new city. When starting school or an internship, there is already plenty to figure out — the last thing you want to worry about is how to get around.

Fortunately, there are also plenty of apps to help. Here are some you might want to keep in mind if you’re heading to some of America’s largest cities.

ITrans NYC SubwayNew York CityiPhone: Yes, Android: NoiTunes rating: 4.5Price: $3.99.

The Big Apple is home to big-name schools such as Columbia, New York University and Fordham — and it has a subway system to match.

ITrans NYC Subway bills itself as the “ultimate NYC transit app,” and a tool like that can only help freshmen or new interns feel a little less lost in their new home. It offers a trip planner to get around the city, as well as live service-advisory updates. It also provides walking directions to the closest entrance for your local subway station.

NYC blog The Funky Apple writes, “iTrans displays all subway maps with crisp, sharp images. … Very full featured, very, very good.”.

Bustrack DCWashington, D.C.IPhone: Yes, Android: NoiTunes rating: 4.5Price: Free.

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Ah, the nation’s capital. Home to schools such as American University, George Washington University and Georgetown, it’s filled with stars, stripes and … Traffic.

Frustrated by the lack of an easy-to-use metro app in the D.C. Area, Jason Rosenbaum — a metro commuter himself — designed one to help residents get around.

“There was an app I used to get to work every day — I take the bus — and it stopped working in December,” Rosenbuam told K Street Magazine. “And so I looked around for another one that I liked, something that had all the features I wanted, and I couldn’t find one. So out of frustration I decided to make my own.”.

Bustrack DC has a detailed map of all subway and bus lines in the capital and surrounding areas. It allows the user to find nearby stops and shows in real time when the next bus or subway car will arrive. Simple, easy-to-use and free.

GoMetroLos AngelesiPhone: Yes, Android: YesiTunes rating: 2.5Price: Free.

From Venice Beach to Hollywood, Los Angeles nightlife brings entertainment to college students from schools such as University of California – Los Angeles and the University of Southern California — if they can learn how to find their way around.

Created by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, GoMetro has tools to find your way through the city, including 200 maps for use in offline mode. It also predicts when buses and Metro Rail cars will arrive at a certain station and allows the user to save favorite stops for easier access.

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OpenMBTABostoniPhone: Yes, Android: YesiTunes rating: 3Price: Free.

One Bostonian blogger called OpenMBTA “the best iPhone app ever, if you commute by bus in Boston.” And while we’re not sure this beats Angry Birds, OpenMBTA certainly makes life easier for students looking to find their way around the country’s seventh most densely populated city.

And there are plenty of students looking to find their way. Boston is home to heavyweight schools such as Harvard, Boston College, Tufts and Boston University.

OpenMBTA is a collaborative effort from Boston locals, using real-time bus, train, subway and boat data provided by the city. The app gives public transportation schedules and automatically updates with closures and other alerts.

Most of its code is open source, and it says on its website that developers in other areas are “especially welcome” to use the code to create similar apps for their own cities. Developers connect and work together on improvements to the app in a Google Group.

Transit GenieChicagoiPhone: Yes, Android: NoiTunes rating: 2.5Price: Free.

With Chicago’s extreme winter weather, taking a bus around town certainly beats walking for students at one of its dozens of colleges. TransitGenie is the go-to app for schools such as the University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern.

TransitGenie, which was designed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, offers public transit routes from one place to another, taking delays into account. Its iTunes description says it is highly customizable, allowing users to specify how much they’re willing to walk and at what speed. It also provides directions for people traveling with a bicycle or those who need accommodation because of a disability.

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Grid Chicago, a sustainable transportation blog for the region, calls TransitGenie the “most robust app, but the least pretty,” of those designed to help with public transit in Chicago. Its interface is simple, but its detailed maps and customizability make it a winner.

Have other favorite apps to help you navigate your city? Let us know in the comments.

Sean McMinn is a Summer 2013 USA TODAY College intern and a senior at California Polytechnic State University. He was a Spring 2013 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about him here.

This story originally appeared on the USA TODAY College blog, a news source produced for college students by student journalists. The blog closed in September of 2017.