Friday, December 3, 2010

What's going on with CTA Train Tracker?

by John Greenfield

[This article also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine,]

Q: Just curious—when you map a train station on Google Maps, you can click on the station icon and get a pop-up with train colors and times for next trains. Are these times legit and based on GPS of real-time trains, or is it just copying a scheduled map from some other source? —Joel Cornfeld, Lakeview

A: Don’t bet on Google’s pop-up train times being the gospel truth if you’re trying to make a flight.

The departure data that appears when you click a Chicago station icon, a blue square with a train symbol for Amtrak and Metra or an “M” for the Chicago Transit Authority, comes from those agencies, says Google spokesman Jake Parrillo.

While the CTA’s Bus Tracker does provide real-time, GPS-based bus schedules, the El times listed on Google Maps reflect the same static timetable info posted at the train stops, says CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski.

The good news, Hosinski adds, is that the CTA is “currently performing some external tests of a ‘Train Tracker’–type program out on the system using some of the platform LED displays.” There’s no ETA for the formal Train Tracker launch, and the CTA isn’t announcing the pilot program locations.

But if you’re curious, you can see them at the Fullerton and Belmont stops on the Brown, Purple and Red Lines, the Cermak/Chinatown Red Line stop, the Chicago Brown Line stop, the Clinton stop on the Green and Pink Lines, and the Polk Pink Line stop.


Greg said...

I witnessed the L time-tracker myself about two weeks ago at the Fullerton Brown/Red Line stop. I happened to look up and see a, frequently updated, sign listing trains and their ETAs. I commented to a nearby CTA employee at the time,'yeah, right'.
My Brown Line train was there within 2 minutes, just like the sign had said.
Greg Valent

Fargo said...

I've noticed it at Cermak, and have also seen a trial run at 35th St. The timing was pretty much on the money.

New technology? To CTA, yes. BART in the San Francisco area has had this handy feature since at least 1980.

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