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L.A. transit officials release free iPhone app

September 3, 2010 |  7:30 am

Go-metro-iphone-appBus and subway commuters have one less thing to complain about -- as long as they have an iPhone.

Addressing a fairly common complaint, Metro has launched an official iPhone application. Go Metro, available as a free download from Apple's App Store, works on the iPod Touch too. But to use it, you need to have an Internet connection, which makes it less handy for iPod owners.

Go Metro offers travel tips, can help arrange trips across town and presents news alerts from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The app can use the phone's GPS to show you a Google Map pinpointing the nearest subway station or bus stop.

The transportation authority contracted New York-based mobile developer Usablenet to build the app. The company also provides mobile services for the commuter systems in New York and Boston.

For more than a year, a few enterprising iPhone coders have been selling apps that offer L.A. Metro timetables and trip planners. And according to App Store reviews on Go Metro's page, some of the paid alternatives offer more features.

"One of the things that we typically do is run an app in the App Store for a month to collect that feedback," Jason Taylor, Usablenet vice president of global product strategy, said in a phone interview with The Times. "I would imagine that that feedback would result in a 2.0 [version] that would address those concerns."

Usablenet was only contracted to create this one app and provide routine maintenance, not feature updates. However, Taylor said cities and companies generally commission the developer for follow-up versions based on the feedback they receive.

Metro.net, the transit system's website, offers a mobile-optimized version of the site. Unlike many sites that offer mobile versions, Metro.net doesn't automatically redirect to it when you surf from a phone. Rather, you must navigate to m.metro.net. A Metro spokeswoman said she would look into having a redirect added.

[Corrected, 12:55 p.m. A previous version of this post said Metro.net doesn't offer a mobile site.]

About one-third of traffic from cellphones to Metro.net comes from the iPhone, Taylor said. But hits from Google's Android phones are growing, he said, so one might guess that Droid commuters might be the next to get serviced with an app. BlackBerry riders may be left waiting at the platform.

-- Mark Milian

Image credit: Usablenet