This app will help commuters survive the so-called summer of hell in New York City

Key Points
  • Moovit is a cross-platform mass transit app.
  • Its precision makes it an essential app for straphangers.
  • The app boasts 70 million registered users in 1,400 cities around the world.

In New York City, mass transit has become a daily nightmare for millions of commuters, riddled with delays, cancellations and derailments during what even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called the "summer of hell."

Transportation app Moovit seeks to be the antidote, mapping the best route no matter your situation.

Moovit boasts a presence in 1,400 cities, and 70 million users worldwide.

I decided to take it for a whirl to see how well it could get me around New York City.

Moovit has a tidy interface that's easy to navigate

This is where you'll enter your destination and tell Moovit how you plan to get there.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

As you travel, you'll receive "Get off" alerts that tell you when it's time to exit your bus or train.

Even when I was dozing off, the push notification woke me at the right time.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

The geolocation tracking is especially detailed, even to which direction you're facing.

This is useful for when you're getting off a train and want to figure out which exit to use. We've all been turned upside-down trying to figure out which way is uptown and which way is downtown, right?

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

But geolocation struggled to update without full cell data service, which was a bummer.

It works when you have cell coverage, but it's useless when you don't have access to data, like in some dated subway stations. Over more than two dozen subway rides, it lost my location several times due to not having full cellular data service on my phone. Moovit's precise directions, however, often meant I still knew where I was going, even without the visual aid.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Here's how it all works:

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

By anonymously sharing your location, Moovit is able to passively gather information about how quickly trains and buses are running.

During my tests, Moovit accurately predicted the arrival of every train and bus I took within a two-minute range. And Moovit can easily tell you when to leave, if you would like to arrive at your destination before a certain time.

Beyond telling you when and where to get off, the app also lets users actively report the status of a transit line during a journey. This can help alert other users to delays. But while active reporting has great potential, it currently has limited utility.

When a C train I was riding became delayed, it took one tap in the top corner to open up a report menu. But then I was confronted with six vague options, and needed to write a custom response.

Why not just let a user flag a quick alert, like in the traffic app Waze?

Final thoughts

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Moovit's largest drawback is the lack of location names in its database. While typing a station or address worked every time, looking up the name of a store or restaurant only worked twice during my testing. Conversely, Google Maps seems to have every point of interest you can think of.

While it may not yet fully replace Google Maps, Moovit's precision makes the app essential if you primarily use public transportation to get around major cities.