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R68 Subway Car

Next Stop for New York Subway: An App to Track Trains

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323984704578205870642642436.html?mod=ITP_pageone_1

 

NEW YORK—America's largest subway system is preparing to launch a smartphone application that will reveal train-arrival times on seven of the city's 24 lines—a leap forward for a service that has lagged behind its peers both at home and abroad in adopting new technologies.

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to release on Friday its Subway Time app for passengers with iPhones and iPod Touch devices. Android and Windows versions of the app are in development and the agency is currently considering how to integrate the real-time arrival information on its existing website.

 

The breakthrough, long awaited by many of the city's straphangers, will allow at least some riders to plan their commute by the minute for the first time in the system's 108-year history.

 

The L line should be added to the data stream that feeds Subway Time within six to 12 months, the agency said. The improvements that would add the No. 7 to smartphone apps won't be completed until 2016.

 

Until a separate project extends cellular service to underground subway stations—projected to finish in 2016—the new app is for use aboveground and effectively extends the reach of the existing countdown clocks on station platforms throughout the A Division. There currently are six stations that have cell service and Wi-Fi operating, including the 14th Street stop on the 1, 2, and 3 trains that are part of the A division.

 

The rest, encompassing two-thirds of its total stations and roughly 60% of its daily ridership, continues to rely on signal technology dating to the middle of the 20th century or earlier. It will be years before those lines have signal systems that can generate the digital information that drives countdown clocks on platforms and apps on cellphones with live updates.

 

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system serving the San Francisco area was one of the first transit agencies to provide its train-location information to outside software developers back in 2007, said Tim Moore, who runs BART's open-data initiatives. A BART app was available on the day Apple Inc. launched its groundbreaking App Store in 2008, Mr. Moore noted.

 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority already publicizes all information from its central transit operations center to third-party software developers, said Joshua Robin, the authority's director of innovation. The Chicago Transit Authority did the same with its bus-tracking data in 2009, and real-time train information became available last year.

 

New York's MTA, which only introduced countdown clocks on a handful of subway platforms two years ago, began to pursue a real-time subway app in earnest this summer and turned to more modern systems for models, including those in Chicago, Boston, Washington and London. Smartphone apps have proliferated in Europe, an MTA spokesman said, with heavy adoption in Stockholm and cities across Germany.

 

In Hong Kong, the local transit agency—coincidentally run by Jay Walder, the previous head of the MTA—began offering train-arrival times for its Tung Chung and Airport Express lines to app users last June.

 

MTA officials and public-transit advocates around the country believe that the spread of smartphone apps and readily available train-location data will help spur growth in ridership and mollify customers weary of dashing through turnstiles and down underground stairways without a sense of when their train will appear.

 

"I think the proliferation of transit apps is one of the most exciting things to happen to this industry," said Michael Melaniphy, president of the American Public Transportation Association. He hoped the software would "demystify" the process of navigating train and bus systems for rookie riders.

 

Mr. Melaniphy pointed out that apps offering reliable clarity on the whereabouts of trains and buses are readily embraced by passengers wherever they become available.

 

"All that work that has to go in before you can run a real-time app system. You first need years of work, millions of dollars, all those highly-trained workers, before you're able to launch a system like this," he said. "It's another example of why we must invest in infrastructure."

 

For now, however, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota looks at the seven lines readied for real-time data as "the day that generations of dreamers and futurists have waited for," according to a news release heralding the new app on Friday. "The days of rushing to a subway station only to find yourself waiting motionless in a state of uncertainty are coming to an end."

 

 

It is a much needed start in the process to bring the subway into the 21st century.

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Some things: You can't tell if a train is running local or express because the track indications on the countdown clocks are not shown in any way. There's also no difference between the (6) and the <6>.

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You'll find out when you get on the train. Remember that the <4> and <5> represent LOCAL service in Brooklyn, for some reason......

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Right now there is a sick passenger at Fulton.it shows 2 5's running downtown on (2) but they say they are ending at Atlantic

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Right now there is a sick passenger at Fulton.it shows 2 5's running downtown on (2) but they say they are ending at Atlantic

 

Well that's because the countdown clocks show real time information.

 

 

 

No Android version yet, what a surprise......

 

I know right <_< it took them a year to come out with the Android version of The Weekender.

 

The countdown clocks might be a waste if this thing is successful but then again......

Why don't they do this with LIRR/MNR trains sure will avert me from freezing my ass off on the platforms....

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Gee, it would be nice if they had a DESKTOP web version, cuz then ANY smartphone could access it.....

 

 

Why don't they do this with LIRR/MNR trains sure will avert me from freezing my ass off on the platforms....

 

 

They do, it's called Train Time. It's been around for a while (and Grand Central's departure board has been online for at least 10 years).

 

New Jersey Transit also has DepartureVision for just about all of their stations. Does anyone know if Boston, Chicago or Washington have anything like that?

Edited by Snowblock

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I know right <_< it took them a year to come out with the Android version of The Weekender.

 

The countdown clocks might be a waste if this thing is successful but then again......

Why don't they do this with LIRR/MNR trains sure will avert me from freezing my ass off on the platforms....

 

Why do you even bother? The trains are pretty prompt so I would just wait in the waiting room until the train comes...

 

Why can't we get beta versions of BusTime in Brooklyn Queens and Manhattan?

 

lol... Be patient... They need to actually install the hardware on all of the buses in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan then run tests in various scenarios for things like interference from buildings and so on before they roll it out... It's a pretty tedious process. For Riverdale and the Bronx it was a bit hectic the first few weeks due to the Hurricane and such and if they can't get connection from the buses with the servers then there can be problems. Staten Island was problematic too but less so because there are far fewer taller buildings.

 

 

Gee, it would be nice if they had a DESKTOP web version, cuz then ANY smartphone could access it.....

 

GOD this is the one thing I've been b*tching to the Bus Time team about... I use the Desktop web version when tracking my express buses or local buses on my phone, but there is no friggin' scroll bar like there is if you're using the Desktop version on say your laptop or desktop, so I have to use the navigation system there in the left hand corner of the Bus Time map and then zoom in and tap on the bus I'm tracking to get it that way instead of being able to go to the exact stop I'm at and see what buses are coming because since there is no scroll bar on the Desktop web version for my Android I can't scroll down if the bus stop isn't say the first few stops or whatever.

 

I told them about it and they basically said in a nutshell that it isn't a priority. Well it should be. <_< Having to get the info via text is time consuming, annoying and quite frankly inaccurate as the Desktop version is more accurate and easier to use. You can see where all of the buses are too which is great because if the bus is too crowded you know there's another one coming without you having to keep checking the phone since the Desktop version automatically refreshes itself.

 

I'm actually going to write to them and complain about that because I asked about that a long time ago and it still hasn't been addressed yet. <_<

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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Why can't we get beta versions of BusTime in Brooklyn Queens and Manhattan?

 

 

Because not all of the buses are equipped for Bustime yet.

 

here is the weblink:

http://apps.mta.info/traintime/

 

 

Okay, it would nice if there was a desktop web version which actually WORKS!

  • Upvote 1

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If you let it load for a couple minutes, it shows up. However, if you change lines or stations, it will still continue to load data for the first station you loaded.

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ill leave it up and see what happens, it might not be compatible with Safari

 

It is compatible w/ Safari, used and checked it on it. However, for my internet usage, I mostly use Google Chrome.

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Wondering about this. Gotta compare SubwayTime with Chicago's Train Tracker. Chicago being my second home and all.

Edited by Metro CSW

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You'll find out when you get on the train. Remember that the <4> and <5> represent LOCAL service in Brooklyn, for some reason......

 

That explains that <4> I kept seeing at all the stops at like 4:30am before I went on vacation last week. Since I took the last 4 to New Lots (it actually runs express in Manhattan but local in Brooklyn), the following 4 to Utica had a regular (4) bullet.

 

I'm looking at the desktop app now and there's a " (4) to 180th" going up the east side as I type.

 

Edit: Oh. Barclays Special. Hmmm. Shouldnt that be a (5)?

Edited by paulrivera

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This app is a huge time saver - I'm very impressed!

 

Would be great if they could expand this to the B division (lettered trains), even a bare-bones system that can't identify which train line is coming. Example: Union Turnpike, Jamaica-bound train approaching, 8 minutes away (even if it doesn't distinguish between E and F trains since I'm not sure the technology is there for that level of precision.) Perhaps they could start with trains with infrequent headways and/or large gaps in service due to service reliability problems - such as the C, G, and R.

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Guest Lance

Alright, I finally got around to trying this out and oh boy, app design is not the MTA's strong suit. Especially in this case. For starters, going from one screen to the next takes several seconds and always has this loading page that looks like something out of an early '90s video game. I could understand it having to load up the real-time information, but it shouldn't have to load the screen for each line map (which I assume is already preloaded into the app).

 

Speaking of line maps, that leads to my second qualm with this app: the lack of a rubber band feature. If you have an iPhone/iPad, you know that damn near every app has a flick to scroll and rubber band feature so you don't have to constantly keep scrolling down. Well, the MTA sure knows how to break the mold. And I don't mean that in a good way. Each one of these lines (except the shuttle obviously) are long and without any search function, it takes a lot of scrolling to get to your station of choice, especially if your stop is in Brooklyn or in midtown or below if you're using the 1 or 6.

 

Thirdly, the MTA needs to learn about quality control and proofreading before putting their stuff out. Just like they haven't done with their sorry excuse for the Weekender app, there are several errors in this app as well. For some odd reason, the Dyre Avenue portion of the 5 is placed not below the White Plains Road section north of East 180 St, but rather smack dab in between 138 St-Grand Concourse and 125 St. Also, while relatively minor, the ADA accessibility symbol for 3 Av-149 St is at 149 St-Grand Concourse for both the 2 and 5.

 

Before anyone says anything, yes I'm aware that the MTA released this as a beta map. That's not an excuse. If it isn't ready for prime time it shouldn't be released as a normal app. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't beta tests usually done in-house? And if it isn't done in-house, shouldn't it be made abundantly clear so users know what they're downloading isn't a finished product?

 

As for suggestions to improve this app, I'd hand it over to the folks over at iTrans NYC Subway and let them make a much better app. But seriously, if the MTA wants to keep this in-house, they should put the data in map form so users don't have to pick a line, then pick a station. In my opinion, it would make it much easier to see which lines are running at any given time. For instance, if the 5 is reroutes down 7th Avenue (as is wont to happen every time someone sneezes on Lexington Avenue) and a riders is about to use the 116 St/Lenox Av station to get to Morris Park, said rider can wait for the next 5 train instead of the 2 and then have to transfer to the 5. It's also useful for the rush hour diversions of the 2 and 5 down Livonia Avenue. I'm not saying they should get rid of the line maps because they're also useful, but it shouldn't be the only option. Again, since I'm talking about the line maps, they have to get that flick feature in this app so users aren't scrolling forever.

 

Another thing that comes to mind is the idea of combining the Weekender App with this one into a larger app that shows the current status of the subway, along with TripPlanner, the weekend diversions and real-time tracking for the IRT lines. There's a reason why subway-related apps like iTrans NYC Subway and KickMap are so popular. They combine many different features, like the visual subway map, service changes and point-to-point directions based not only on the timetable, but also on planned service changes. The days of using multiple apps for information are over.

 

All in all, this could be a great app and possibly the go-to app for the subway, but quite frankly, it has a long way to go before it gets there.

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Thanks to this app I have discoverd that (5) to Bowling Green and (3) to New Lots apparently are running for new years eve.(4) is still terminating at Utica

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