Adham Fisher, subway system race runner, on the utility of mobile applications

Here’s a guest post from Adham Fisher, who puts mobile applications to the test in his attempts to quickly visit all stations within a subway system.

Transit technology is advancing all the time, and in my pursuits this is a good thing. I try to visit all stations on urban rail networks as quickly as possible. There are Guinness World Records for doing this on the London Underground and New York Subway, both of which I have attempted, and I have done the same in many other cities despite their lack of official recognition.

Aiming to go to all stations on a network by train, I must arrive at and/or depart from each for it to count. One can also transfer between stations out of the system by running or using other public transport only, like a bus, tram or suburban train. And it is very much a luck game; I must rely on the subway running to time for the schedule to work. So a way to monitor all of these things is very useful.

Mobile Applications have revolutionised the way the public views transport. We can time ourselves much better with them, knowing when we can expect the next train or if a bus has been diverted. For someone like me they are invaluable in knowing what to expect on a subway network, especially one on which I have never travelled before.

Live departures, maps and information are on a screen at the touch of a button so I can plan ahead. It is also useful to know the carriage and door at which to board each train so I am closest to the exit for the next transfer to save time. I research each system as much as possible in any case, but with such information at my fingertips the task is slightly easier.

There are apps which show you the platform layouts and exits relative to train doors, like Paris Ci La Sortie and New York’s Exit Strategy, which even shows subway entrances and exits at street level. The brilliant KickMap simplifies the traditional New York Subway map to a form reminiscent of a European metro with each line laid out individually. Not only that – there is a day service and a night service map, and also next scheduled departures for each station. For live Paris Metro departures the Transports Paris app is not content with merely giving the next times, it goes one step further and styles the display to mimic the actual platform boards. Should you be in Barcelona, you could do with EasyMetro.

The predecessor to a London Tube app was the Way Out Tube Map, which no doubt influenced technology – as far as I’m aware it was the first modern map with geographical network representation and exit information. Now there several takes on the oldest underground railway. Zuti’s London Underground is one, with map and simple exit information; they have them for several other networks too. Tube Exits has proved popular, though the specialised apps like this one tend to be designed more for Apple devices running iOS in my experience. Though Android has London Tube Live for departures, which isn’t the most accurate thing.

The general public might use such transit tools casually, but I load my phone with as many as will fit and consult them a lot between logging the journey, taking photographs of each station and obtaining witness statements on a record attempt. Yet more things to do on the move, but invaluable for subway speed riding.

Adham Fisher

Aaron is the founding principal of Trillium Solutions, Inc. He brings experience that includes 12 years of web-development with 8 years in public transportation, with knowledge of fixed-route transportation, paratransit, rural transportation, and active transportation modes. Aaron is a recognized expert in developing data standards, web-application design, digital communications, and online marketing strategy. He originally developed Trillium’s GTFS Manager, and has played a key role in the development of the GTFS data specification since 2007.