When I was on vacation this past week in Washington DC, I had added a few applications onto the iPhone to help me plan out the sites I wanted to see. I knew we would be using the Metro rail for our primary mode of transportation, so I picked up the paper map at the Metro station. I'm a smart guy, I can use a map, right? Yes, but, it's not very well lit underground and it's kind of a hassle to pull out the paper map when you are toting around a lot of stuff like we were. On top of that, we walked out of our hotel and had no idea which way to walk to the closest metro station; the paper map doesn't really help out with that, and I hate asking directions.
My solution was to check out the app store. I found 'find a metro dc' from jrbapps. This app was exactly what I was looking for. I tested it by having it show me the 5 closest stations from my current location. It show the stations and which train lines are serviced by them. You simply select the station you want and the location based services really shine by launching Google Maps with your start/end walking direction points already entered for you.
Once you get to the station, you can use the trip planner to choose your start/ending Metro stops. This is where it really shines, as the app give you clear and concise directions. It tells you where exactly which train line to use, the direction it's going, how many stops, which transfers you may need to make, and even tells you the fare. I found this to be the most helpful, as it eliminates all confusion as to which train to take. To top it off, it's quicker than pulling out the paper map.
If you aren't underground (no cell coverage), the app can also use your data connection and find the arrival times and delays for the trains. Be sure you do this before you go into the Metro station, as you will have no connectivity underground, at least not yet. I have heard that in October of 2009, there is going to be cell coverage in the Metro tunnels. If you just want the start/stop destinations and which trains to take, you don't even need to be connected, which makes this also compatible with the iPod touch, although slightly limited. Since the iPod Touch doesn't have GPS or 3G, it doesn't let the app live up to it's potential.
As an aside, this app also supports the Metro bus system, which I didn't try since we used the train. It's a nice added feature though.
If you are visiting or live in the Washington DC area, this app is a steal at $0.99 cents. It took me out of a few stressful situations, like finding the correct train and the closest Metro stop when we were walking after dark. This app totally removes the hassles and stress from using the DC Metro for tourists.
Price: $.99 USD