Muni Diaries iPhone App Review: Smart Ride

There seems to be no shortage of Muni apps for iPhone. We think that’s a good thing; a little competition should lead to a better product, right? Here to review one of the latest apps is Muni rider Stephanie. Stephanie reviewed Smart Ride, which is free from the iTunes store, by the way. Here’s her take:

As a habitual SF Muni rider for close to 10 years, I have become keen on new Muni iPhone apps. Bottom line, they’re nothing but useful. They save riders time by showing arrival times of any given bus. I recently downloaded Smart Ride, and enjoyed its features. First of all, it’s free. That’s huge to me, because I really only download free apps, no matter how popular they are. I’m sure a lot of Muni riders will appreciate this also.

The user interface is clean and easy to understand. The app asks for permission to locate your current location, and proceeds to bring up a page of nearby stops and their next arrival predictions. Smart Ride also displays the approximate distance (in feet) to each bus stop. This may seem frivolous, but it’s actually pretty interesting to know which stop is technically closer to you!

The app also features a live map and a directory of different public transportation agencies. I found this a positive thing, since it would be useful when traveling in different cities. I particularly like the fact that the directory stays on your chosen agency (SF Muni) even when you are using the other features of this app. I find it frustrating when some apps reset once you veer away from a certain location, and the user is forced to go back through the motions of choosing their preferences again.

From my experience, Smart Ride’s predictions have been accurate, and I have enjoyed using this application. The Favorites feature sets it apart from some Muni apps out there. It allows you to save your frequently used stops, which is extremely helpful when you’re in a rush! Overall, I am pretty pleased with Smart Ride. It covers all the bases, and is quick and easy to understand. Thanks for saving me time, Smart Ride!

Thanks, Stephanie. Now when is the Android app market going to explode? Too much to ask, I know 😉

Previous iPhone app reviews on Muni Diaries:


  • Sally

    There are a bunch of Muni apps for Android. No idea which is the best, though. I’ve been happy using the public transit mode in Google Maps.

  • Oh yeah, I know. I’ve been using Muni Alerts now for a little more than a year. It does the trick, so I haven’t really “shopped around.”

    We’re gonna try to get more Android app reviews up on Muni Diaries soon. Stay tuned …

    • Marjorie Gelin Goodwin

      Hey Jeff,

      How is Muni Alerts better than using the Muni for mobile webpage? Not sure of the benefit.

      • If you mean for mobile, there’s not any clear benefit that I’m aware of. I use Muni Alerts mostly out of habit, as Nextbus mobile either wasn’t up and running when I got my Droid, or I wasn’t aware of it.

  • JimmyD

    I still use Routesy or NextBus.
    My question still remains: Are any of these, including Smart Ride, based on predictions or actual GPS signals.
    Far too often the so called times are not accurate. And if it rains? Forget it.
    My phone has very accurate GPS. If the trains and buses had actual GPS signals, these apps would be great rather than nice.

    • It’s dated, but our talk with Nextbus’s Michael Smith nearly two years ago revealed that it’s a little bit of both (mostly GPS-tracking, but timetable predictions when buses are at their terminals). It seems sensible to switch to GPS-only, I agree. I’ve found that, perhaps at least for knowledgeable locals, Nextbus’s live maps are the way to go.

      • JimmyD

        Thanks. We’ve had this chat before. The last time I mentioned this the info was still old. It seems that no new info has surfaced.
        I haven’t tried the Live Maps on my iPhone. Maybe I will!!
        I did, since posting my comment, install Smart Ride. If anything, it looks pretty cool!

    • Hi Jimmy, I’m the author of Smart Ride. Smart Ride uses Nextbus to retrieve prediction data. It’s my understanding that there are GPS receivers on each vehicle, and Nextbus uses the current location and speed of the vehicle to predict arrival times. This works for buses, street cars, and even cable cars (often with excellent accuracy).

      I’ve noticed that the prediction data can change rapidly, especially if there is traffic or other problems, but that kind of thing is inherently unpredictable. (I live on one of the busiest lines in SF, the 30-Stockton through Chinatown, and I see this often.) However, I’ve also noticed that when there are slowdowns the system quickly readjusts and the new predictions are often quite accurate. Smart Ride will (currently) refresh the predictions every 15-30 seconds, so it’s usually up to date. And if you find problems with the accuracy, please let us know so we can pass it along to the Nextbus people!

      • JimmyD

        There are some things I refuse to believe change that suddenly.
        I take the F Train from Sanchez Street every morning. SO many times NextBus or Routesy says, “Arriving” and there’s no train to be seen.
        This is at 7:00am. Two stops from the start point. If a train was pulled at the last minute, I’d see it turn at Noe.

        As i mentioned above (in reply to another comment on my comment), I have installed Smart Ride. It looks cool. Can’t wait to try it out.

  • Check out enLegion SFMuni. Not your typical app. It displays all the buses for a given route and the direction they’re heading. The app is actually a location based chat app that also lets you share info with other muni riders on the same route.

    Getting ‘correct’ predictions is easy because they all get it from the same place: Nextbus.

    The website also has an HTML 5 version of the app (although it doesn’t display bus directions…) so non-iPhone users can also use it.

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