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The best smartphone apps for navigating downtown Chicago

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While it can be intimidating getting around the third largest city in the United States, there's a magnitude of options for getting to and around the downtown Chicago area thanks to the smartphone revolution. Whether you have an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, there's plenty of apps available for a variety of transit options to help anyone from the tourist to the lifelong resident get around quickly and effectively. Here are some key apps for navigating the area:

Google Maps (iPhone/Android/Windows Phone)
Google Maps (iPhone/Android/Windows Phone) Google

Google Maps (iPhone/Android/Windows Phone)

Google Maps is one of the original transit apps, and it's still one of the most effective solutions for getting around Chicago or any major city. Users can get the familiar driving and walking directions, but the app also has great directions for public transit on the CTA, Metra and other transit services. The app is available as a default first party program on Android devices, and is also available on the App Store for iPhones and the Windows Store for Windows Phones.

Moovit (iPhone, Android)
Moovit (iPhone, Android) TranzMate Ltd.

Moovit (iPhone, Android)

Moovit, like Google Maps, can interface with public transit systems, making the app a crucial tool for finding directions within a major city like Chicago. The app can give you directions to the nearest CTA, Metra or Pace stop, calculate time to walk and ride and give an approximate arrival time. The app is available on the App Store for iPhones and on Google Play for Android devices.

HERE Transit (Windows Phone)
HERE Transit (Windows Phone) HERE Europe B.V.

HERE Transit (Windows Phone)

While there are an abundance of transit apps for iPhone and Android, the Windows Phone marketplace has a much more limited selection. The Windows Store has this app, which combines schedules and maps for popular services like the CTA, Pace, Metra and others into one convenient app. This makes it a valuable all-in-one program exclusively for Windows Phone users.

Transit Stop (iPhone)
Transit Stop (iPhone) Kramer Concepts, LLC

Transit Stop (iPhone)

This iPhone exclusive app is a simple and free program that provides realtime updates on bus and train schedules for the CTA. Users can track busses and "L" trains live to better plan commutes around the city. The app also features a map with location services to help find nearby stops. 

Transit Tracks: Chicago CTA (Android)
Transit Tracks: Chicago CTA (Android) Lele Duan

Transit Tracks: Chicago CTA (Android)

This app is the Android equivalent of Transit Stop, providing up-to-date information on bus/"L" transit times and the location of stops. It provides straightforward information about times and stops without being cluttered by other features. 

onTime Metra (iPhone)
onTime Metra (iPhone) Mobileware Inc.

onTime Metra (iPhone)

For individuals commuting to and from the suburbs, Metra often provides the most practical public transit options. This iPhone app provides train schedules and stop locations for both tourists and seasoned Metra riders.

Ride Metra (Android)
Ride Metra (Android) Jerrell Mardis

Ride Metra (Android)

This Android app provides similar services as the iPhone app OnTime. Users can track train schedules, see service alerts in realtime and find the most convenient stations for getting to and from the suburbs. 

SpotHero Parking (iPhone, Android)
SpotHero Parking (iPhone, Android) Spot Hero Inc.

SpotHero Parking (iPhone, Android)

When driving, finding parking can be one of the more difficult challenges in downtown Chicago. Apps like SpotHero can be an incredibly essential tool for finding parking and comparing prices to get the best deals. Users can also link their credit cards to the app and reserve parking the moment they find the right spot. SpotHero is available for iPhones in the App Store and Android phones at Google Play.

Uber (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone)
Uber (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) Uber Technologies

Uber (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone)

Uber is a combination taxi finder and rideshare service designed for on-the-go smartphone users to quickly and easily request a ride from either its taxicab services or one of its local rideshare drivers. While the rideshare portion of the company is under scrutiny in recent months within Chicago, the app still provides valuable transit services on the fly. Users have the option to link the app to a credit card and pay directly from their phones. The app is available in the App Store for iPhones, Google Play for Android or through a third party app for Windows Phone

Lyft (iPhone, Android)
Lyft (iPhone, Android) Lyft, Inc.

Lyft (iPhone, Android)

Lyft, like Uber X, is a smartphone app for individuals interested in rideshare services that are fast and cost-effective. Finding a ride and paying through the app is a quick and easy process and makes a great alternative to taxicabs. The app is available in the App Store for iPhones and on Google Play for Android devices, but the service lacks a Windows Phone option. 

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