The Best Apps to Turn on Public Transport

Use bus, train and subway to get around? Your trip can get better with these three apps


Public transport is certainly the most economical way to get around the city. Even for those who drive often use the subway or train can be an alternative to get faster to the destination, taking advantage of the tracks to escape the jams on the streets and avenues.

But it’s not always quiet catch a bus, subway or train to somewhere you’ve never been before, or even try to  understand how the public transport system of a city you are visiting for the first time. Fortunately, some free apps provide detailed information on the collective and the best routes for you to come without suffering. Let them!

For all this already invented Google Maps?

Yes, Google Maps supports routes by public transport there is a long time and is probably already installed on your smartphone, but you can get a better experience using dedicated applications for it. Among the additional features are the ability to find the nearest stops, find out the arrival time of the next bus and follow the path in real time.

Furthermore, precisely because the public transport is the main function of Moovit, Citymapper or Trafí, they tend to be more up to date and care to offer the best possible routes and features. All are startups and are constantly improving based on feedback from users.


The Moovit is the most popular application of its kind and has the great advantage of working in more than 700 cities and 44 Brazilian. It is not restricted to large centers like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia: the staff of Blumenau (SC), São Carlos (SP), Maringa (PR) and Juiz de Fora (MG), for example, can also use key features.

The Moovit home screen shows the nearest bus stops; touching them, you can find out which lines go through there and how long the next bus will arrive, based on the information disclosed by public transport authorities in your city. With “On board”, you select the line embarked and receive an estimate of how long (and how many points) it will take to reach your destination.

A nifty feature of Moovit is the function to ask for taxis, made in partnership with Easy Taxi. I did not drive, and usually use taxis as a complement to the subway or train to get to places where rail is not enough – get off at the nearest station and from there call a taxi to the destination. So, spend less, I get faster and do not worry about the bus stop should I get off (which sometimes is not as close to the desired location).

My problem with the Moovit is that, in my experience, the routes suggested in Sao Paulo very prioritize the bus, which is more unpredictable in relation to the subway and much more time consuming during peak hours (though not so much in the hallways). Rather than present a subway ride to the destination and use the bus as a complement, the Moovit constantly suggests walking only a few stations and do the bulk of the way by road, which is not always efficient.

The Moovit is free and available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.


The Citymapper is currently my preferred option of public transport application. Perhaps the only major flaw is the fact that the Citymapper supports very few cities: they are only 31, and the only Brazilian is São Paulo. So unless you are passing through the land of drizzle ie Paulistano, it probably will not be very useful.

The only Brazilian city available Citymapper is well served. It brings a more organized interface that the Moovit and a more complete support. For example, when searching a bus line, you can see exactly which sites are the vehicles. Thus, it is possible to plan better and avoid staying too long waiting on the spot. It is the Live Eye of SPTrans, only within the application.

There is other information that make your life easier: to catch a subway route, Citymapper is able to suggest the best section of the train for you to embark (front, middle or back). This makes it possible, when arriving at the destination station or transshipment, landing you right on the correct ladder. It also shows, on the “City”, the situation of the subway and train lines.

When searching for a path, you can push the button “Go”, and Citymapper be responsible to monitor your location in the background. When the moment of land is near, the application will beep. This is cool because you can go from source to destination without getting bothering to check the application or warn that line embarked.

In the version for iOS, the Citymapper features integration with Uber and 99Táxis to suggest mixed routes: you can take a private transportation to the nearest train station and from there, go to the desired destination. In the case of Uber, the Citymapper itself shows the estimated rate of travel in different modalities (uberX and UberBlack) and the time the car will take to arrive.

The Citymapper is free and available for Android, iOS and web.


The Trafí began operating recently in Brazil, in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Lithuanian origin, it has the distinction of using advanced algorithms, machine learning techniques and crowd-sourcing to provide the best possible routes – in fact, the Trafí describes itself as the “most accurate public transport application in the world.”

In my experience, the routes suggested by Trafí are reliable, and there are options for all times: when searching for a path, the application now quickly returns the recommended route, the route with less trade lines, the route requires less walking and route “first” to get faster to the destination. In addition, there is a section dedicated to bicycles, which shows the closest rental stations and how many skinny available in each.

It has a very nice interface and brings good features, displaying the location of the bus line and its users alerts about late or crowded bus (you can also alert others, including posting a picture). You can also download the table of the bus schedules for offline access, and soon there will be a resource to trace routes without relying on the mobile network of your service provider.

Since I published the first version of this text, Trafí evolved considerably in Brazil. The search for addresses, which failed a few times (local as “Av. Paulista, 900” did not return results) are smarter. Just need to consider integration with Single ticket from São Paulo: some paths with estimated cost of R $ 11.40, in fact, out of R $ 3.80 with the integrations.

Especially for those who often moves the Rio-São Paulo axis, the Trafí is a strong option to consider. It is free and is available for Android, iOS and web.

Originally published on November 13, 2015. Updated on April 1, 2016 with features and updated numbers of applications.