As a three-hour-a-day commuter to and from Toronto’s downtown core, I know how exhausting the whole process can be.
With the Pan Am Games fast approaching, we’re about to see an unparalleled influx of traffic congestion very soon. Lucky for you, over a year of travelling, I’ve picked up on a few mobile apps that can make the experience much smoother.
Between freak blizzards in April, ten-car pile-ups on the 401, inexplicable flash-flooding or complete cut-offs from all subway access, there are a million factors that can make getting to work seem almost impossible. The following mobile apps are super helpful in making your routes a little less mysterious, regardless of the mode of transport.
For the Drive:
Beat the Traffic: This comprehensive, user-friendly app was designed to give you a snapshot of exactly what’s happening on the roads in real-time. The colour-coding, traffic cams and warning symbols are so easy to read, you’ll be able to think at the wheel even when you are half-asleep. Beat the Traffic basically takes care of every aspect of the drive from average highway speed, to recent car crashes, to weather and approximate arrival times, allowing users to input and save personalized routes in order to make the best possible decision about which one to choose.
CP24 Traffic Alert: CP24 is a Toronto-local that is always hovering above the city and aims to be the first to cover any incidents on the highways and in-town roads. The handy app performs most of the functions of “Beat the Traffic,” as well as having a hands-free, voice-activated driving mode that announces any unexpected changes on-route.
Google Maps Traffic Function: Out of memory or not in the mood to download a bunch of new apps? No problem, simply flipping on the traffic function on the Google Maps app that is likely already installed, can give a basic colour-coded overview of the speed of traffic.
For Public Transit:
Transit App: This mobile app is an absolute gem when it comes to getting around the city car-free. Whereas many apps are only focused on a specific method of transport, Transit app is able to optimize routes based on buses, subways, metros, Uber, car2go lots, trains, streetcars, light rails, and even ferries. Essentially, it’s like having a mini travel agent in your pocket that allows users to change their minds on getting from A to B on the fly. It’s pretty incredible!
Map My Ride: While biking should typically be a stress-free commuter option, in Toronto it can be a scary feat. Map My Ride is a great mobile app for both casual city bikers and extreme enthusiasts. Probably the most comforting feature is the large database of routes itself, but aside from that the app always measures key metrics such as distance, speed, time and the route taken.
Park Like a Pro
After a long drive, the added stress of having to park can sometimes be icing on the miserable cake. Although we will probably never stop complaining about the steep parking rates in TO, there are a few mobile apps that can at least help alleviate some of the struggles of parking, paying, and reading the fine print.
For the Day:
Green P + Mobile Pay: Far behind many of the world’s top cities, Toronto has finally entered the age of mobile pay for parking! This app geo-locates Green P parking lots around users or near a specific location, offers all the relevant information about pricing and times, and now allows users to pay through desktop, mobile and by classic cell phone as well; and with Green P practically monopolizing the city’s parking lots, you are always sure to be near one wherever you may be.
For A Few Hours:
Best Parking: Although there have been some complaints about outdated information, for the most part, BestParking is really helpful for finding street or lot spaces. Users will discover that there is actually plenty of free or cheap parking in Toronto, so long as you are okay with reading some fine print. If you’re not in too much of a rush and on the bargain hunt, this can be a helpful app to peek at before heading out.
For the Long-Term:
JustPark: JustPark is a peer-to-peer service: something of an AirBnB, but for parking. Essentially, anyone with an empty space and no car to fill it is able to post the slot on JustPark and have someone rent it out on a daily or monthly basis. With the city’s restrictions still tight around this kind of offering, there aren’t a ton of spaces available, but the site is definitely worth checking in with every once in a while in hopes of finding a unicorn.
Stay productive, stay entertained
Everything else aside, the hardest part of commuting for most is simply staying sane through hours of mundane travel (usually at top speeds of 10 kms/hour). That being said, it’s absolutely essential to find little distractions for entertainment or productivity to help the time go by a little quicker. How you choose to do that is completely up to you, but here are a couple of fairly universal suggestions:
Overcast App: There are loads of different Podcast apps out there, but Overcast is one of our personal favourites. The application is free to download and simple to navigate. Where it really gets us, of course, is in the clean, modern layout of the User Interface (but, we’re kind of suckers for great design). This particular app is only available for iOS, but if you happen to have an Android, Podcast Addict is an awesome alternative.
OverDrive: For the avid reader, hours of commuting can melt away in to the pages of a book. The OverDrive app partners with thousands of libraries across the world, including the Toronto Public Library, to lend cardholders e-books, audiobooks and videos without ever actually having to step into a library. The app is free to download, books don’t cost a thing to borrow, and deadlines can never be missed because the publications are returned automatically… I bet you’re feeling smarter already!
If you know of anything else that makes life easier on the road, please drop us a comment below. Happy commuting, my fellow Torontonians!
This content first appeared on Vordik.