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Boston-area mass transit apps: 5 for helping navigate the T

These handy websites as well as applications through Google and Apple are best for navigating a system that can be full of delays

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Navigating the Boston area’s buses, subways, trolleys, and commuter trains can be tricky. And, given the system’s chronic delays (and the odd derailment), it can be a real headache too. These five transit apps and websites—all available through a wifi connection on smartphones or through apps downloadable from Apple or Google—can help ease the pain.

Trip Planner. This is pretty much the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s official portal for navigating the T and commuter rail.

It allows users to plan trips hours, even days, in advance; and users can search for wheelchair accessibility and trips with the fewest transfers or the least amount of walking (“Best route” is the default search function). It can also warn of track work or other realities that might delay trips.

Track the T. Software engineer David Newton started this free website after relying on the 73 bus to get back and forth from his private-sector job in Cambridge. Buses would “bunch up three or four behind each other with the timetable mostly fictional,” he said over email. He seized on the MBTA’s 2009 decision to make its real-time bus information public, and developed this app.

It tracks subway, trolley, and bus arrivals to the real-time second. It is especially helpful for riders if they’re at a stop along multiple routes going in the same direction. Newton’s Track the T will tell them when the next bus or train is coming that’s going their way—even if it’s not the one they intended to take. It’s a lifesaver when time is tight.

Transit App. The MBTA officially endorsed this free app back in 2016. It basically mimics the agency’s own Trip Planner site via tapping into the MBTA’s real-time data for arrivals and departures.

Transit App will also list departure times for nearby transit, in case other modes are going toward the same place; and the app includes ride-hail and bike-share options too. Finally, if riders are worried about missing a stop, they can set up Transit App to ping them when the stop’s coming up. Bonus: Transit App works for dozens of other cities and regions.

ProximiT. This free app that Jeff Lopes developed is available only through Apple. It lists arrival and departure times of buses, subways, and trolleys in order of how close they are to a rider’s location and desired time of departure.

Basically, ProximiT is another way to draw real-time information for commutes. In that, it bills itself as a kind of personal assistant for commuters.