The first time I lived in Los Angeles there were no smartphones. I spent 45 minutes each morning and each evening traveling four miles on the 405 commuting from Westwood to Beverly Hills, which was infinitely boring. But we live in a new age, and these days we have tools to help you get where you’re going more efficiently.
Starting with navigation
If you’ve been doing your current commute for more than a week, you’ve probably settled in on a route that you believe is the fastest possibility. Of course, if you’re using popular navigation apps like Google Nav or Waze, it could be that you’re wrong. Those apps, I’ve found when I try to use them to get around L.A., always put you on the freeways, though you do have the option of telling the map to always avoid them. Even so, there are times when you will want to take your local freeway or interstate highway.
There are loads of apps to help you beat commuter traffic. Check out more here.
But navigation apps are still good for one very important reason: they show you where you are on a map, and both Google Nav and Waze boast some cool map features. Google’s key bit, to me, is its heat map. When in navigation mode, you can zoom out and view traffic levels on any street. Green means you’re clear, orange means slow, and red means it’s going to be a while. While Google does not take this data into account when giving you a route, you can use it to make your own, certainly. It’s easy to look at the heat map and plan your own alternative route or to detour yourself when the need arises.
Waze, on the other hand, doesn’t have a complete heat map of your city, but that’s probably because that app has less data to work with since it’s not pulling GPS data from every Android phone. It does, however, have other helpful information. It gives better freeway data than Google does, as it actually tracks vehicle speed and feed that information to other users. In those times where you need to know exactly how long it will take to get there, this is helpful. Still, you might get data on your route in some places but not others.
Waze, though, is also a social network, and it allows you to feed in information about the world around you. Waze users will, for example, make a note on the map when they drive through a construction zone, and then everyone else can see that information. If there’s a bad wreck holding up traffic, they’ll let you know that, too. More specific information is always good. Making educated decisions is also good.
Texting, tunes, and gas stations
A lot of folks, though, are happy with their routes and don’t need a navigation app. Maybe they’ve gotten so used to it that they could sleep through their morning drive. Those people, I might think, would be tempted to text a bit while sitting in the car. That, as we all know, is bad news, and in some places it can earn you a ticket if you’re spotted doing that by a police officer.
What those people need, then, is an app that won’t let them text while they speed along the highway. That app does exist, and it’s called Textecution. Allegedly, this app will prevent you from texting if you’re moving more than 15 miles per hour, and you can also set it to shut off mobile data. It also costs $30 for some reason. While that’s probably too pricey for most, if you’re in the market for such an app, take it as a sign that you could have a serious problem.
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While using your phone to actively entertain yourself while you’re driving is a terrible idea, it can be quite helpful in keeping you entertained nonetheless. Most of us like to listen to something in the car or during a subway commute, and you don’t need to use the FM radio or CDs or an MP3 player. Your Android phone can do all that stuff for you. If you’re in the market for free apps, I heartily recommend iHeartRadio, which collects radio stations from all over the country in one streaming app. So if you’ve been living for years away from your hometown and feeling sad that you can’t listen to your favorite childhood radio station during your commute, chances are this app has what you’re looking for.
Alternatively, the ubiquitous Spotify is also available in a mobile app, but you’ll need their premium service to use it. A subscriptions costs $10 a month, but the advantages are plenty. You can stream or download any song in the extremely extensive Spotify library to your phone. Finally, you can see how many different covers of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” you can get through in the morning before you go mad.
One last thing I want to discuss, and it’s GasBuddy. Most of us need to put gas in our cars, right? Well, this app keeps updated prices for gas stations all over, thanks to users, and it will help you find the best options near where you are and where you’re going. It’s an invaluable tool, especially if you live in a large city where prices can vary greatly from one neighborhood to the next.