App of the Week: RailBandit

App of the Week: RailBandit

You don't need to have an iPhone, or even an Android to use this week's App of the Week, RailBandit. This app gives users easy-to-navigate information about train schedules for 30 rail services across the country, including the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Staten Island Railway. It's available on a host of devices: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod Touch, and even any Java-enabled cellphone manufactured within the last two to three years. NYC Subway Trip Planner, a companion app with information about the Subway, is available for BlackBerry.

RailBandit offers train schedules, maps, and trip planning capability. The app works if you are offline, but if you are traveling aboard a train above ground and your phone has GPS, RailBandit can track your progress as you travel and match it against the train schedule to tell you if your train is running on time.

The multi-agency app integrates schedule information from the 30 agencies it covers into one place, allowing users to plan trips that involve transfers between trains operated by different agencies. For example, to travel from Princeton, N.J., to Oyster Bay, Long Island, RailBandit will consolidate schedule information from the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit into one trip plan and list the transfer times at Penn Station.

RailBandit was created in 2007 by Yuriy Yakimenko, then a grad student at Rutgers who was commuting to school by train. "I used an old Nokia 3220 phone at the time (iPhone and Android platforms were still in their infancy), and I did not want to carry paper schedules with me all the time," he said. "I realized quickly that an application like this would be useful to many commuters. The idea was to make it generic and smart enough to work as a cross-agency planner, capable of planning trips involving connections: this was a challenging and nontrivial part, and something that really got me involved."

RailBandit offers a fully functional five-day trial for free. The app itself costs $7.99 for iPhone and iPod Touch and $7.89 for Android. For phones manufactured within the last two to three years by BlackBerry, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, LG and others, RailBandit is available for $4.50 for a six-month subscription. Both BlackBerry applications can be downloaded from BlackBerry App World.

The app uses graphics that are fully licensed by the MTA, and data downloaded directly from the MTA's website. It automatically notifies you if any relevant schedule updates are available.