Trekking Through the District: Popular Transportation Apps

By Anika Reed

WASHINGTON-The District is full of people who are constantly on the move. With no shortage of transportation options and 64 percent of residents who are plugged into their smartphones, your mobile device can make getting around more convenient.

These free transportation apps have something for everyone who's on the go.


Forget whistling and waving at taxis when you can have the luxury of a car service at your fingertips. Uber is a ridesharing company that connects riders with drivers worldwide through the app, which pinpoints your location using GPS and sends a driver to where you are.

Pros: Uber texts you when your driver has arrived, and the app includes the driver's name and car type. You can choose from a regular Uber car, an actual taxi, an SUV, a car with a carseat or a luxury town car. The app also charges your credit card on file and allows you to split the fare with your friends.

Cons: Depending on the time of day and your location, there can be a mandatory surcharge on your ride regardless of how short the distance when there are more customers than drivers. There is also no customer service phone number for you to reach a representative with your problems, so you're forced to either utilize the FAQs or send an email.


Similar to Uber is Lyft, a ridesharing service branded more for the every man rather than the more exclusive Uber. Lyft offers three ways to use the service: the original Lyft; Lyft Plus, which is a six-passenger ride; and Lyft Line, which lets you share the ride with others going in the same direction and is only available in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Pros: You can track your driver's estimated time of arrival through the app, and you can see a photo of the driver and the car while you wait. You can also choose whether you want to add a tip directly through the app when the ride is over.

Cons: The customer service at Lyft is lacking as well. The company only has a phone number for its "Critical Response Team," and an automated message directs you to the company's website to fill out an email if your inquiry is not safety-related. Also, the Lyft Line service is only available in three major cities.

Embark DC

Embark is an interactive app that lets you plan your transit trip. The app provides step-by-step instructions for your trip on the Metro or any of the other transit systems in the 10 cities available on the app.

Pros: The Metro system is notorious for bad to nonexistent cell service underground, but Embark works without Internet or cellular connection. The app with also alert you of any advisories or closures so that you won't run into any surprises. The app tells you the when the next trains will arrive, which can save you time on your commute.

Cons: Although the app lists all the times of the upcoming trains, it doesn't give you the ability to change the way in which you want to get somewhere if you have to switch lines.


The app complements the popular car-sharing site, where users create an account and then reserve a designated Zipcar vehicle in any of the 42 states and the District. The app lets you reserve the car based on location, time or day and also lets users view and edit their reservations. Zipcar claims to have hundreds of cars in designated parking spaces across D.C.

Pros: Running late? Extend your time with the car directly from the app. And for those of you who forget where you park, fear not. The app makes it easy to locate your car by honking the horn at the tap of a finger from your phone. It also features the option to call Zipcar in case you need to speak with someone about your car or reservation.

Cons: Users must already have a Zipcar account to use the app and have to sign up through the website if they do not. The lock and unlock buttons on the app lag in response time, so trying to unlock the car when you're standing at the door can take a little longer than expected.


Spotcycle supports multiple cities and bikeshare programs internationally, including Capital Bikeshare, which offers more than 2,500 bicycles across D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, Va., and Montgomery County, Md. The app makes it easy to locate bike-sharing stations through real-time live views and station clusters in a general area.

Pros: The app will help you locate stations on the bike share system and will list the 10 stations closest to you. Spotcycle also features bike and bike dock availability along with a map of bike paths.

Cons: Spotcycle allows you to set a 30-minute timer to keep track of your bike rental, but it does not deal with payment information when it comes to going over the 30-minute free time limit.

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