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Apps Can Save the Day for Commuters

21 Dec 2015 by Susie Steckner

Technology is constantly evolving — not unlike a living organism. It isn’t static. It isn’t constant. That makes it disruptive. Businesses, even niche businesses, often forget to, or choose not to, evolve with technology and are turned upside down — because their products, their policies, their customer interface becomes, simply put, outdated. We live in a consumer-driven world, and we are often drawn to technology everything — from convenience to novelty. This is Insight’s Disruptive Technology series. We will be addressing how technology enters an industry and does exactly that — disrupts.

If Steve Martin’s character had one of today’s handy apps (or a smartphone for that matter), he could have easily navigated his way home for the holidays. While delays and confusion made for great comedy in the movie Martin starred in, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” real-life travelers can lean on tech to make sure their commutes go smoothly — and without any plot twists.

Traveling or expecting out-of-town guests for the holidays? Track arrivals and departures. Headed out to the ballgame? Try a parking app to reserve your spot. Catching the train to work? Effortlessly check its arrival time. Want to bike across town? Rent a stranger’s ride.

A range of apps makes driving, flying, riding and sharing as hassle-free as possible. Here’s a roundup to download before you head out the door.

Getting around

Traffic apps are armed with updated traffic information and GPS-based navigation, giving drivers a heads-up in real time when something will impact a route. Google Maps will alert you to construction zones and accidents. Sigalert offers real-time road speeds, round-the-clock traffic reports and a network of roadside traffic cameras. With Beat the Traffic, you can set your regular route and opt in for real-time traffic push notifications or email alerts sent directly to your device.

Waze harnesses crowdsourcing to make your drive easier. Type in your destination before you head out, and “wazers” will let you know about anything standing between you and your destination, whether a troublesome pothole or road-closing accident.

Letting people know your estimated time of arrival is easy with the Glympse app. Running behind? Send a Glympse to let friends know when you’ll be at the restaurant. Or ask chronically late buddies to send a Glympse so you aren’t waiting around.

Taking transit

If you rely on public transit to get to work, school or around town, you can improve the commute with a host of apps.

With Roadify or Moovit, you can find the best routes to that festival, game or restaurant — any place — in the city. Use Moovit to plug in favorite destinations as well, making it easy to plan those trips quickly.

Want to explore all your options? Try RideScout, which brings together all transit, bus, bike, taxi, car share, rideshare, parking and walking directions in one place.

Share a ride

Thanks to the sharing economy, you’ll find of plenty of ways to hitch a ride, carpool, or borrow a bike and car with relative ease.

Rent a car by the hour or day through peer-to-peer car sharing service Getaround. Become a member of Zipcar, and you can do the same for that ride home from the airport or trip with friends to the beach.

Get where you need to go and get green with Carma Carpool, which connects people who want to share a ride to the same destination. If you want to skip the car altogether, rent a bike through Spinlister. You’ll find everything from a beach cruiser and road bike, to electric bike. Don’t stop there — you can also rent a surfboard or snowboard for an extra adventure.

Parking made easy

Searching for a parking spot on a Saturday night is a challenge. But parking apps can help you reserve a spot, and make it to that dinner reservation or kickoff just in time.

Try out ParkWhiz and SpotHero for your everyday needs, and ParkingPanda to snag a spot for the big game or event.

Not sure where exactly to park? Explore the cheapest and most convenient parking lots and garages in your city or airport through Best Parking.

Travel simplified

Whether you’re taking an extended vacation or headed out on a day-long excursion, the journey will be smoother with apps that help you find flights, track arrivals and departures, or locate a place to fill up on the open road.

It’s easy to search for flights with apps like Hipmunk and Skyscanner. Compare prices, book accommodations and more.

Once your plans are set, check out GateGuru, the go-to for frequent fliers. You can get real-time flight information and also push notifications with crucial changes or delays, plus details about things like the best airport lounges.

If you’re planning a road trip, download the iExit app to find out what exits are ahead and the services you’ll find at each of them. You’ll also want to check out GasBuddy, which lets you search for gas stations by location, and then find the cheapest place to gas up.

Getting from point A to point B has never been easier. Wherever you’re headed, just grab your favorite device, chart your course and enjoy the ride.