Traffic Special – New Apps For Riders, Passengers, And Commuters
You can listen to my reviews every Monday on Moore in the Morning at 6:45 am and follow me on Twitter here for more great apps.
Reminder: Driving apps should only be used while your phone is secured against the dashboard of your car with a suitable dock or hands-free solution. Never hold or use your phone while driving and make sure that you plot routes or work out any related information before you start your trip.
Hailo is a new taxi dispatch service in Toronto that uses the GPS in your phone to help you locate and hire taxis in your area. A quick scan gets you a map with yellow icons showing you how close they are and approximately how many minutes it’ll take to reach you. From there everything is done by account, meaning you have to register your credit card in advance and let the app take care of the rest. The advantage is jumping in and out of a cab without ever having to reach for your wallet and knowing that you’ll get a receipt by e-mail. The app includes an auto-tip feature, but you can override that with just a few screen swipes should things go sour at the end.
Hailo doesn’t own or maintain taxis themselves, instead they recruit and background check existing drivers from the streets. Each driver has to create a friendly profile with their name, photo, and phone number on it for you to access. It allows you to explore star ratings and comments from previous passengers or even file a lost and found report should something be missing later.
The downside is that the service is limited to providing taxis only, there's no vans or town cars, and only for the central parts of Toronto at launch. With your name and ride history stored on account, it’s also the farthest thing from an anonymous experience. The driver knows your name before you step into the cab. The hope is that as they expand their service into new areas and people see that a more personalized ride can guarantee cleanliness and good behavior, the perks of using the app will make it seem like simple, common sense.
Travelers is designed for the trips you take on a regular basis, the commute you make between home and work or the weekly trips you make to the cottage. These are routes you already know like the back of your hand and won’t need directions for, but Travelers can help by monitoring them for you around the clock and sending you notification e-mails should serious problems arise such as road closures, accidents or slow-downs.
The e-mailed reports come at a time of your choosing, say an hour before you leave for work, and even no problems surface you can still use the app to find alternate routes, access traffic cameras along the way, and pull up gas stops, parking spots and weather conditions. The app is created by the Weather Network who goes the extra mile by having one of their staff record a video report, one that focuses just on the streets you travel. You can even become a reporter yourself, filing comments on issues or problems you find along the way to be shared with other drivers.
It’s just launched and so can be a tricky and confusing app to figure out at first. Follow the tutorial and make sure to save the trips you create by swiping to the left and I think you’ll see it can make quite a difference. Currently in Beta, the Weather Network is being quite ambitious with it, including information for airline flights with plans to add transit information too. It should be an interesting service to see grow.
Since Apple replaced Google Maps with their own service there’s been an outcry from many users over the loss of information for public transit. TransitTimes+ is one way to get that information back, offering access to bus, train, and subway schedules for cities across Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Hungry. You can access these both through the TransitTimes+ app or directly within Apple Maps itself.
This includes both city and regional systems, such as the TTC, HRT (Hamilton), and YRT (York Region) with the choice to look up routes by specific line or section of town or by simply letting the app work out directions for you by punching in points A and B. There’s a Live Tracker feature too that will look up the GPS position of the buses on the line, in case things seem to be taking too long and you’re wondering why.
Maps and schedules can take up memory on your phone, so the app lets you pick and choose which cities you really need. This also means you can access the information without internet access if needed too. If you swipe the screen to the right from the main menu you’ll also find lists of nearby routes and service alerts from the transit systems themselves.
While it’s annoying to pay for a service that comes with Google Maps for free, TransitTimes+ does offer the advantage of saving routes you may take often and it’s real-time tracking capability more than makes up for the price.
Note: The iTunes Store has versions of this app labeled for each major city as one as the general edition I've linked to in this post. There doesn't seem to be any difference as the basic $2.99 price gives you access to all the schedules regardless of which version you buy. Creating duplicates labeled by city seems to merely be a strategy for having the app come up in user searches.