I took the airport bus back from SJO airport to San Jose, and I was delighted to discover the new app, Moovit, which I had loaded on my iPhone was working. Earlier, when I opened the app from home, it would never show any bus routes which interested me. I think Moovit is a “crowd-sourced” app like Waze, which depends on users to input all the information and my area must not have been entered yet.
The Moovit app can be downloaded from the Apple store and is free.
The Moovit app below is orange with a white smiley face.
The App in Action
So, here was the surprise: when I opened the app while on the bus, instead of an empty screen with no routes found, I saw the screen below. What is really cool is the app knew my location and offered me a choice of two bus routes that use the route I was on. So no scrolling through lines of routes that don’t pertain. I was on Route 200 going from the airport terminal in Alajuela to San Jose, so I selected the first choice on the list.
After the selection, another screen comes up with (1) the route, (2) the stops, (3) the estimated times to each stop and (4) where you are along the route. So the apps says I have eight more stops and should arrive at the terminal at 1:37 pm in 14 minutes.
Ok, a few caveats. Costa Rica traffic is notoriously bad and these estimates are wildly optimistic. I guess it would have taken at least twice as long at the pace the bus was going. I think the program takes my GPS location and uses my rate to calculate the bus’s speed like WAZE does. Second, the stops listed do not include every place the bus stopped. Personally, I am never quite sure about stops in Costa Rica since it seems to be flexible. So, if no one is at the stop and no one rings the bell to get off, the driver keeps on going. Likewise, if someone wants to get off between stops and the driver is in a good mood, he may stop and drop people off. Like I said, it seems flexible. I am not even sure the app lists just the major stops. The bus stopped at about twice as many places as listed, which may be the source of the bad ETA. I am sure the algorithm will get better as more people ride and add information.
At this point, I decided that I wanted to get off at Crown Plaza by Sabana Park instead of going all the way into San Jose. All I had to do was click on the blue circle with the pencil to edit my information. I chose Crown Plaza this time and the screen updated with a new map and my location on the map and an new ETA. So, now the program estimated I would arrive at 1:39 pm or in 7 minutes (previously was 1:33). Note the small blue dot on the stop’s window indicating my current location almost to Hospital Mexico on the screen shot above. So the program gave me two indicators of my position – the small blue dot on the map and the small blue dot on the list of stops.
The next picture below shows where I was as I got close to my final destination – Crowne Plaza. On the map, you can see the constantly updating blue dot that indicates my current position along the orange route with the final destination indicated by an orange box. Note: previously the program estimated I would arrive at Crowne Plaza at 1:33, then 1:39 p.m.; and below at 1:43 p.m., I was supposedly 2 minutes out with an updated ETA of 1:45. Really, I enjoy the program and am in no hurry to get to my destination, so a few minutes error in ETA does not impact me but is merely an academic interest.
At this point the program is getting me prepped to exit the bus. The program made a sound and popped up a window to alert me that I am one stop away or 0.6 miles.
I don’t know why, but I started getting tense. Costa Rica moves rather slow sometimes. The bus will actually stop and let you get fully off before leaving, so there is no rush to push to the front of the bus to get off. I heard another ring with a 0.3 mile warning. By this time I can see the stop, so I really don’t need the phone alerting me, but I can see this alert feature would be useful if you are unfamiliar with the route.
The app gives me the one minute warning that my stop is coming up and when I arrive, it sounds loudly and announces I arrived and to get off.
Finally, ETA 1:47 pm. If you are a seasoned New Yorker, the erroneous ETAs might drive you crazy, but in CR where time runs slower and many things will happen mañana (tomorrow), this is a big jump forward dealing with minutes.
Also, I can see the advantage of alarms if a person falls asleep and needs to be awakened when they reach their stop.
Reversing the Trip
Later I had occasion to go to the airport and thought I would try the app from where the bus starts to the airport (SJO). The Bus TerminalTerminal is across from Parque de La Merced. I think the cost from SJ to the airport was c550 or about one dollar US.
I opened the app and the nearby choices were offered and I choose “200 San Jose to Alajuela.”
Again, the app lists the route, stops, and estimated times.
I selected the airport stop from the list and the app refreshed with a new map. Note the estimated time to arrival was 11:43 when I started.
The bus arrived at 11:57 versus the original 11:43, so again, take the ETA with a grain of salt. Pura Vida.
In case you were not aware, the airport bus stop is located where the red arrow is pointing below, just opposite the terminal on the other side of the parking deck.
In summary, I am excited to use this program. It works: it gave me the major stops, does a fair job of estimating ETA, alerts me that my stop is near, and is free.