Five Chicago Apps That Make City Life a Little Less Annoying

Looking for a bike? A train? A hot dog? Let your phone show you the way.

Photo: Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune

The last time we did a roundup of Chicago’s best smartphone apps, Siri wasn’t a thing. The iPad wasn’t a thing. People didn’t even take selfies. So we’re due for an update.

Here are five apps any Chicagoan—well, certainly the newest Chicagoans—should have ready on an iOS or Android phone.
 

Foodlander

Robert Loerzel tipped us off about this farmers market-finder in his startup roundup at Crain’s. Foodlander logs your phone’s GPS data and displays a list of farmers markets near you. The app is perfect for navigating the produce stands that pop up under your neighborhood L tracks:

Foodlander

Local vendors can register with the app to upload locations, products, and special promotions which you can bookmark and track—all for the quite aggreeable price of zero. The app is for iOS (Android coming soon).
 

QuickTrain

We noted in May that the CTA’s online train tracker is really nifty. The webpage lets you to choose your CTA line and station from a drop-down menu and displays real-time ETAs for trains arriving from either direction.

Problem is, if you’re pinched enough for time that a live-feeding train tracker is even remotely useful, the 30 seconds it takes to open Safari, navigate to the CTA’s website, and choose your line and stop could mean a missed connection.

That’s where QuickTrain comes in. This external app logs GPS data to determine which stop you’re nearest, then pulls ETAs right to your phone. So, rather than deciding if you’re closer to State/Lake or Randolph/Wabash, you can just open QuickTrain and see one of these:

QuickTrain

You can also choose stops by line, if, for example you’re headed to the State/Lake station, but you can only use a brown line train. QuickTrain costs a buck, and it’s worth every penny. For iOS only.
 

Chicago Neighborhoods

Chicago natives, skip this section. Chicago Neighborhoods was created by a new Chicagoan for new Chicagoans. Lakeview transplant Dave Krawczyk jumped on Reddit last week to promote this new app, which is little more than an iOS map of Chicago divided by neighborhood.

The app uses GPS and the city’s data portal to determine, by intersection, which neighborhood you’re in at any given moment. You can also search for neighborhoods to see where they are. Where is this East Ukrainian Village place everyone keeps talking about?

Chicago Neighborhoods

Chicago Neighborhoods is available for iOS (Android version coming soon).
 

Vienna Beef Locator:

 

Update: Somebody seems to have eaten all the hot dog apps, but presumably more will be cooked up shortly.

This app is simple. You want Chicago dog? iPhone find Chicago dog:

Vienna Beef Locator

The app will help you build Chicago dog at home, too. Step 1: Bun. Step 2: Dog. Wait, sorry, that’s a “juicy Vienna Beef Hot Dog” in step 2 there.

Vienna Beef Locator is available for iOS and Android.
 

CycleFinder

Crafted by PBSC Urban Solutions—one of the companies behind Chicago’s bike-sharing program—CycleFinder maps Divvy bikes and docks nearest you. Depending on whether you want to park or ride, you can view available bikes or empty docks. The 

CycleFinder

The app also has a built-in timer to help you avoid Divvy’s pesky overage fees. And it’s free, free, free for iOS and Android.

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comments
10 months ago
Posted by Cementley

Does QuickTrain do anything that RedEye's free app doesn't? QT has no reviews and costs 99 cents.

10 months ago
Posted by Bill E.

I hope you will update and repeat this article when these apps become available for Android. Not everyone is a iPhone user.

10 months ago
Posted by mattpollock

@Cementley: For me, QuickTrain's immediacy is the kicker. With RedEye's app, you have to navigate to the train tracker and choose a line/station (or select "nearest station"). With QuickTrain, you can just open the app and see ETAs for whichever station is closest. So, less time noodling with your phone.

@Bill E. We'll keep our ear to the ground! CycleFinder and Vienna's Android versions are linked at the bottom of their respective sections. Chicago Neighborhoods and Foodlander both have Android versions in the works (deck5ive.com/chicago-neighborhoods, foodlander.com). QuickTrain, sadly, is made by an iOS-only programmer (sushigrass.com).

10 months ago
Posted by ChicagoResident1982

312Go is an awesome new Chicago app. Can't believe it's not on here!

As you move around the city, the technology tracks direction and location to trigger audio files about the things you see, as you see them. Over 2000 interesting stories and facts about the sights around Chicago!

More info at www.312go.com

9 months ago
Posted by Foodlander

Thanks for including us Matt!

Bill E. - We are finalizing our first android release so it will be available this week!

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