Finding your way around Paris by public transit

Paris has one of the most advanced public transit systems in the western world. Subway trains (the métro) run every one or two minutes during rush hours, and only slightly less often at other times. Buses on the busiest lines stop every four to ten minutes, and they connect seamlessly with each other.

It’s using all this sophisticated transport that can be difficult, but there are some apps that lighten the load considerably. (I’ve tried and discarded many of them during the smart phone years, always returning to the one issued by the métro system itself. This year, though, I’ve found a third-party app that is my winner.)

Transit (Samuel Vermette,  free for iPhone and Android) is quick and intuitive. In a few seconds, you can enter your destination and choose “current location” as your starting point; it will find the nearest transit stops, tell you how long it will take to walk to the first one and how long you have until the next bus or train arrives.
Transit trip plannerThis screen shot (planner) shows a trip Jan and I made from the Marais to Denfert-Rochereau, the prominent square near Rue Daguerre and the Montparnasse Cemetery. Our rented apartment is nearby, overlooking the cemetery.
Transit route mapThe second screen shot is the route map Transit creates, showing that we took the bus to the Saint-Michel métro stop, then the Line 4 métro from there. This is the route we chose, adding a stop for a coffee at one of the many cafés around Saint-Michel, the busy student center surrounded by bookstores. There’s a terrific view across the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral.

Second place this year goes to the app published by the métro system itself, which is known by its acronym RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). I’ve used it for a long time, but this year’s update isn’t quite as intuitive as Transit. Both use the same RATP database, which is available under license to developers.

However, I do like its “around me” page better. Using your GPS coordinates, it shows a map of all the bus and metro stops in the vicinity. Click on the station icon to see when the next two buses or trains will arrive.