Best online transit maps and tools for the San Francisco Bay Area commuter

by David Spark on January 18, 2009

Commuting sucks.

Although two things have made the experience 1,000 times more pleasant.

  • My iPod with podcasts.
  • GPS-enabled buses and trains.

While traveling on crowded buses and trains, you can get really bored and annoyed. For me, the process of waiting or being smushed has been completely eliminated thanks to podcasts on my iPod. I’m completely entertain no matter what the delay or cramped conditions are.

As for catching buses and trains, it’s not about the delays, it’s about knowing when the next bus or train will come. If you have that knowledge, then you can take advantage of that time. Thanks to NextMuni, us San Franciscans can know when their bus or train is going to arrive at their stop. Many of the stops have installed alerts, but you only know that when you get there. You want to arrive at the stop when your bus arrives.

If you live in the San Francisco/Bay Area, here are the tools and tips that will help you do that via BART, MUNI, AC Transit, VTA, or CalTrain.

How do I get around via transit? – This full Bay Area transit map and schedule is a Google Maps mashup with all the schedules and routes of all the aforementioned Bay Area transit systems. Simply enter your beginning and final destination, just like you would for driving directions, but this time select the option public transit instead of driving directions. The map will give you the transit lines to get to your destination.

When is my bus coming? – If you’re at home or in the office and you’re wondering when to run out the door to catch your bus, bookmark the NextMUNI site that tells you when your bus will be arriving at your stop. For all those other times you’re not by your computer before you head for the bus, go to with your Internet-enabled phone. The content is formatted for a mobile device. Navigate the menus to pick your bus and the stops you traditionally take to and from work. Once you get to that specific page, BOOKMARK IT and give it an appropriate short label. Then every time you head to your bus stop, you can quickly check your phone without going through that tree of options and see when the next bus will be arriving. If you don’t have an Internet-enabled phone, there are ways to receive the information via SMS.

Which bus should I take? – If you’re like me and live next to two different bus lines, you’re always guessing which bus line should you take. Which one’s going faster? Which one is going to come to my stop sooner? Check out this MUNI bus mashup which allows you to layer multiple lines on the map. Pick all your lines out and then wave the mouse over the stop to see which bus will be the first to arrive at your location.

What’s the safest flattest route I can bike? – A listener/reader just sent in this tip on finding safe bike routes in the Bay Area from Has tons of other biking information.

This news item is for the Spark Minute week of 1/19/09 which can be heard daily on Green 960 and 910 KNEW in San Francisco, CA.

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