Staple transport app to beat the crowds
It's such a coincidence when an app updates and I see a stranger using it in public before I've had the opportunity to check it out. It happened yesterday when I saw a woman planning her trip from Canary Wharf to Green Park inside the train without internet connection. I immediately recognised she was using a new Tube Exits, now ready for iOS 7. Maybe it's also a coincidence the same app is promoted on the App Store this week on a small "Get Around London" feature, along other transport must-haves such as Citymapper and Bus Checker.
Launched ages ago, Tube Exits is the kind of app you download once and keep installed on all your devices. While other apps try to include as many features as possible to give you the optimum journey plan, Tube Exits does one thing and does it very well: tell you which carriage to board to find the station exit quickly at your destination.
If you commute to work using the same London Underground route everyday, chances are you have learned the best spot to stand on the platform. Once you reach your destination, the carriage door opens right in front of the exit, saving you the slow march along the platform dodging commuters at peak hours, tourists with suitcases and the lovely — but very slow — old lady.
The developer took this simple concept to a new level combining all the possible options, mapping all the platform exits on both directions for every Underground station. On this interview at Econsultancy the developer Lance Stewart talks about 270 stations and 700 platforms, which he had to check himself. The app has a feedback option for users to share better alternatives, keeping the backend constantly up to date; it's something like Tube shortcut crowdsourcing.
The actual app though, hasn't been subject to much tweaking in the last year. The latest update finally adds support for iOS 7, adding the white aseptic default interface elements you are now accustomed to. One of the nice touches is the use of colour tints matching the Underground line when you filter results by line instead of a general station search.
The rest of the animations are still there and are perfect fit. I always found the colour coding on stations very clear and good looking. The quirky train animation (which tells you the direction of the travel) is still there and it's still the best way to know your carriage at a glance without reading the text description below.
There's probably some thought into how the up upgrades, as it still remembers your recent journeys and your favourites. This is something very convenient for someone who travels regularly but doesn't necessarily keep track of the good platform spots. All of the content is available offline, which makes Tube Exits the perfect platform time waster in case you have deleted Flappy Bird or don't have internet access via the Virgin Media Wi-Fi.
The app can be used as a very simple Tube combination calculator, more like a rudimentary journey planner, which is what the girl I saw yesterday was using it for — Citymapper excels at this but it requires network access! Tube Exits includes a line status board and a map (which you have to download beforehand), but these are just complements to the core feature, which makes the app worth download and keeping installed. If the developer wants some new ideas he should speak to Underground expert Geoff Marshall and Diamond Geezer to know which carriages are most likely to have empty seats when they arrived to your station based on the positions of platform entries. Surely this is a winner idea!