One upside of living in a tech-centered city is the opportunity to witness digital creativity at work. Last August, the Seattle-based GGLO design firm launched an augmented reality app that reveals virtual street art inspired by Black Lives Matter protests in various locations around the city. Student researchers at the University of Washington recently developed an app called AeroSpec, which provides real-time data on allergens and pollutants (something that, unfortunately, could become a hot commodity as we head toward more smoke-filled summers).
From a dating site that lets you filter matches by neighborhood, to an opportunity to meet your neighborhood trees, here’s a list of some other (free) homegrown apps from the Emerald City.
Most Seattle public transit commuters will tell you that OneBusAway is indispensable when it comes to moving around the city. Developed as a PhD project by two UW students in 2008, the app provides real-time info on when buses, trains, and ferries are expected to arrive at certain stops (rather than when they’re scheduled to arrive). Since its inception, OneBusAway has expanded to cities around the world from Poznań, Poland, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, food delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats have come under fire for the hefty fees they charge restaurants already struggling to navigate various Covid-related restrictions. Last April, Seattle tried to mitigate the problem by capping delivery commissions at 15 percent—then a local tech company thought they could do even better. Launched in June, Runner Delivers functions like most other food delivery apps, but without fees to restaurants. For Seattleites, this offers the convenience of food delivery without the guilt of short-changing local businesses. The company also allows workers to set their own wages—though unlike other gig employers, it's unclear whether they’ll eventually fall under Seattle’s hazard pay law.
Want to learn about the secret life of our neighborhood foliage? Launched last April in honor of Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary, this app features a map of Seattle dotted with different walking routes lined with oaks and redwoods and maples (you can filter by elevation gain and length to meet accessibility needs). Select a walk in your neighborhood and you’ll see a map with numbered trees that you can click on to learn more about the species. An overview of each walk even measures the environmental benefits of the featured trees (such as the amount of CO2 they store).
When tragedy strikes—locally, nationally, or globally—one of my first instincts is to tune in to KEXP, where warm familiar voices and aptly-timed songs provide a space to process the day’s events. Apparently—as one of their donor thank you T-shirts insists—I’m not alone. Since the onset of Covid-19, Seattle’s world-famous radio station has received an outpouring of support from listeners seeking comfort and company as they hunker down in quarantine or gear up in PPE. An enthusiastic proponent of Seattle’s local music scene, the station always has something new and quirky to air. The KEXP app lets you listen on your morning walk or bus commute—with the added advantage of being able to save your favorite songs.
This app assembled by the Washington Trails Association is perfect for a bit of on-the-go planning, allowing users to search hikes in the state by location, difficulty, or even dog policy. It has something for everyone: from a half-mile stroll through Leschi Park to expert-level overnighters on Rainier (they even include the Waterfront’s paved Elliott Bay Trail). Ratings, reviews, and photos from other hikers give you an idea of what you’re in for.
In 2018, the Port of Seattle released an app to help travelers navigate the maze of SeaTac Airport. In addition to a multilayered map, FlySEA can provide specific flight information and wait times at security checkpoints. If you arrive early enough (or, alternatively, if you miss your flight), FlySEA will help you find the nearest cocktails.
You don’t have to be a stoner to use Leafly—but if you are, that’s cool, too. The Seattle-based company serves as a kind of educational resource for the weed-curious and a way for the more experienced to stay up-to-date on new strains or developments within the industry (and search for dispensaries via an interactive map). The app also has a news section to keep users in the loop about everything from recent medical studies to issues of racial justice.
Seattle is notorious for its less-than-optimal dating scene. For those who have repeatedly downloaded, deleted, and then re-downloaded Tinder, some solace might come in the form of a city-specific app developed by a guy with a degree in aerospace engineering. The Seattle Dating App allows for neighborhood-focused matching and has a schedule feature so you can find someone with compatible availability.