By Nicco Ryan
I am new to San Francisco.
A simple exclamation, but one that sheds insight into many new complications.
I am a first-time resident here – not only to San Francisco, but a big city in general. Growing up in a suburb, transportation was as simple as calling Mom or Dad. As I grew up, “going out” consisted of grabbing my set of car keys and being on my way. Walking to my destination was rarely a viable option, and the bus system was best described as unreliable and inconvenient (if not somewhat scary). Uber and Lyft had a different name for me: my best friend, Mia. In short, I never needed to give much thought on how I got around.
This, of course, led to many issues (and revelations) when I moved to San Francisco to continue my academic career. Being an adventurous person, I nearly bankrupted myself on Zipcar rentals and Lyfts within the first month. I never fully explored my transportation options, at least not until I began to realize how expensive it was to live in the city – but we’ll save my rant about that $18 panini for another time. Hint: try to avoid the overly touristy areas, you’ll thank me later.
For me, the greatest resource I stumbled across was an informative app named Citymapper. As someone who is directionally challenged, and has no knowledge of street names (let alone cardinal directions – North? West? Let me get out my compass app) this app is a continued lifesaver. With an easy to use and visually appealing interface, everyone can benefit from using it. What impressed me was the sheer amount of information it provided, allowing me to choose between multiple different mediums of commuting.
Bus arrival times, push notifications, GPS tracking: I get an accurate estimate of how long my trip will take, and get lost less while doing so. For me, one of the apps greatest features is that it shows your location in real time and uses your GPS to indicate what direction you’re facing. This is especially useful when you’re unsure if you’re headed in the right direction, if you don’t know which side of the street your bus stop is on, and for the overall security knowing you’re headed in the right direction.
When you first launch the app, you’re greeted with a title screen that allows you to choose your destination or mode of transportation. Another great feature is that you can program in your “home” and “work” destinations to save time on your daily commute.
After you select your destination, the app will then generate suggested routes, including: walking, muni, BART, and even bikeshare services. You will then be able to select your preferred route, and Citymapper will guide you for the duration of the trip.
After selecting your preferred bus line, Citymapper will display your overall route, then begin your step-by-step directions. Depending on how close you are to the nearest Bus stop, you’ll be prompted with walking directions. Walking directions will display your current location with a small triangle pointed in the direction your phone is facing. After you reach your bus stop, you’ll be given live, continuously updated arrival times. After boarding your bus, the app will track your whereabouts to make sure you don’t miss your stop. If you lock your phone, the app will notify you a stop before to make sure you’re prepared. After you get off the bus, you’ll be guided to your final destination with walking directions.
Overall, Citymapper is an excellent app in terms of keeping you on track and making sure you don’t get lost. The Uber/Lyft integration, bikeshare, and well-designed interface make the app worth it – even with Google and Apple maps offerings. Citymapper is a must for getting around San Francisco on a budget, but most importantly – be safe on your adventures, and always try to travel with a friend!
Nicco Ryan is a Communication Studies Major at the University of San Francisco.