If you’re stuck on the subway without a cell signal–or if you’ve run out of minutes on your data plan–it’s now possible to still figure out where you’re going. Transit, an app that offers public transit information in cities from New York City to Nairobi, is releasing a new version that works without a data connection.
When it’s offline, the app can’t give real-time updates on when the next bus or train will arrive, or whether a bikeshare station has bikes available. But it’s still possible to look up schedules, find stops, and quickly map out a route that includes transfer information and walking or biking directions. “I think it’s something that will help people get more usage out of transit,” says Guillaume Campagna, co-founder and chief technology officer of Transit.
Transit is one of a growing number of apps aiming to help make car ownership in cities obsolete by making it easier to move around without a car of your own. Some focus on including every available mode of transportation to calculate the fastest way to get somewhere without a personal car. Trafi, one company that provides this type of platform, worked with Lyft to begin adding bikeshare and scooter information to its rideshare app in some cities, and is rolling out a fully multimodal app in Berlin this summer.
Bringing public transit and map data offline is one way to remove more friction from the process of making a trip without a car. It was a technical challenge, since the schedules and maps from a public transit agency can use hundreds of megabytes of data. Transit’s engineers looked for patterns in the data to help compress it; if a train runs every 10 minutes, for example, the offline app doesn’t need to store each time on the schedule. The app is now small enough that it can download and run off your phone. “We like to compare it to the size of a cat GIF,” Campagna says.