5 Handy iPhone & Android Apps for Navigating the NYC Subway

by  Lindsay Lowe | Nov 4, 2013
Google maps
Google maps / RobertCorse/iStock

New York’s MTA transit system contains 468 stations, 345 rail and subway lines and bus routes, and over 2,000 miles of track. No wonder you need a map to figure it out! Here are five of the best smartphone apps for navigating the NYC subway and New York’s regional transit systems. These apps can be a lifesaver for visitors.

Citymapper (Free)
Available for iPhone in: New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Mexico City, London, Manchester, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Berlin, Hamburg
Available for Android in: New York City, San Franscisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, 

This free app is full of features and easy to use, and it even has a sense of humor. The home menu offers the simple commands ‘Get Me Home’ or ‘Get Me to Work.’ You can enter and save your home and work addresses, and the app will provide options for getting from A to B, including walking, driving, subway, bus, and taxi (including an estimate for the cab fare). The app estimates how long each route will take, and even calculates the number of calories you could burn using each option. This robust app also provides a ‘Find A Bus’ feature where you can see the real-time location of buses in your area, and also features an offline MTA subway map. In addition, it includes a map of Bike Share stations and lets you know how many bikes are available. The one thing it can’t yet calculate is teleportation stats. That, according to the app, is still in beta.

Roadify (Free)
Available for iPhone and Android

The thing that sets Roadify apart from other NYC-centric transit apps is its versatility. In addition to offering real-time and offline maps of the MTA subway and bus systems, Roadify includes live maps and departure information for New Jersey Transit trains and buses, MetroNorth, Long Island Railroad, the Staten Island Ferry, and the PATH train. It even provides live updates for the Roosevelt Island Tram, as well as regional transport systems including Naussau county’s NICE bus, Newport News routes in the Hamptons, and Westchester County’s pilot taxi program, the Bee-Line. Another advantage of Roadify is that it offers transit information for cities all around the U.S. including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and a few dozen others, so travelers won’t need to download a bunch of different apps. Roadify doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles beyond basic departure time lists, but it’s a nifty tool.

KickMap ($2.99)
Available for iPhone; $2.99;

First-time visitors are often (understandably) overwhelmed by the MTA’s official subway map. The geographic proportions are off, there’s not always a clear distinction between local and express routes, and lower Manhattan is a visual tangle of red, green, yellow, and blue lines. The creators of KickMap took on the daunting task of completely reimagining the subway map, and the result is a much clearer, more linear presentation of the city’s complex system. Express and local lines are clearly differentiated, and the map in general is easier on the eyes. And, the maps work offline, so you can plan your trip while you’re underground.

Exit Strategy ($4.99)
Full version available for iPhone; lite versions available for BlackBerry, Android, and Kindle

This clever app tells you where every subway entrance is in all five boroughs so you can plan which exit will be closest to your final destination. It even tells you the most advantageous place to stand on the platform to minimize walking once you debark, noting whether the subway car doors will open to the right or the left. While many New Yorkers are pros at finding the best place to stand to shave a few minutes off their commute, this is often an elusive skill for visitors.

The Weekender (Free)
Available for iPhone and Android

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting on a subway platform for 30 minutes on a Saturday night, only to discover your line isn’t running because of construction. That’s where The Weekender comes in handy. The only official MTA app, The Weekender allows you to select an individual stop (or a single line) and get up-to-date info about planned work or unexpected delays, both on weekdays and the weekend. You can also browse service delays by borough. The app links to MTA timetables for MetroNorth and LIRR, too, though this is not as useful. They just link back to the regular MTA website. However, if you’re looking for a way to look up service delays by station or individual line, this free app can be a lifesaver.

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