Pigeon, Google's NYC Commuting App, Is Like Waze for the Subway

Pigeon, the Google-made transportation app that’s like Waze, but for the subway, went public today after being in an invitation only mode. Its debut might mean the infamously soul-sucking NYC commute — the subway transports some 5.58 million riders each weekday — may become a little less hellish, and stiff competition for subway apps may finally see a clear winner.

Pigeon uses a mix of MTA data and reports from its users (we’re called “Pigeons,” thanks for that?), to show a train line’s status and the number of minutes until the next one arrives. Its design is both more modern than the mobile version of the MTA’s website (or many other subway apps out there), and cleaner than what you might get with Google Maps.

The below email was sent to everybody who was on the wait list:

Hey Transit Trendsetter,
Thanks for signing up for the Pigeon waitlist! Our team has been hard at work building an app designed for all subway-riding New Yorkers who want to get to work on time (except maybe on Mondays… it’s just too hard). And now, we are very excited to invite you to join the community that’s helping to keep NYC moving!
Update the Pigeon app or download it here. Invite codes are no longer needed!
Once you’re in the app, take a minute to set up your commute, explore the app, and share it with your friends!
See you on the subway,
Team Pigeon

Like Waze, the traffic app Google bought in 2013 for $1.15 billion, Pigeon incorporates user data which allows them to report issues at their station related to delays, crowds, closures, incidents, and rerouting. There’s even a miscellaneous category for reports, allowing one to note if there is a performer, bad conditions, or a weather issue at your station. There’s even an option to select “REALLY!?!” as the reason for your report. The goal is to some day incentivize these reports with points for users, and likes for reports. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 500 users on the app.

On the left, an example of Pigeon's commute interface. On the right, an example of how to pick a "miscellaneous" reason for filing a report at a subway station.

Google’s own app “incubator,” called Area 120, self-described as “a workshop for Google’s experimental products,” developed the commuter tool that asks for your home and work address and lists the options for how to travel between the two.

To drum up some worth of mouth, the Twitter account for the app has already started replying to various complaints by New Yorkers on Twitter — the spiritual home for train gripes — about subway delays, and touting what the app can do.

Download the Pigeon app for iPhone.

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