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New York's MTA releases train-locating app for iPhone and iPod touch

post #1 of 38
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The Metropolitan Transit Authority on Friday released an iOS app that will let riders of seven train lines plan their trips to the minute, a first for the largest subway system in the U.S.

MTA Subway Time


The official MTA Subway Time app uses train location data to provide iPhone and iPod touch owners with up-to-the-minute arrival times for seven of the system's 24 lines.

According to The New York Times, the MTA spent 11 years and over $228 million to install digital train-tracking sensors and relevant equipment required to serve up real-time location data. The iOS app taps into the system and feeds commuters with arrival times, though the service is available mostly aboveground as cellular extension networks planned for underground stations have yet to be completed. A large portion of the subway's train location sensors date back fifty years, just before the proliferation of microprocessors and digital communications.

Among the first lines to get support for the new free service are Nos. 1 through 6 and the 42nd Street Shuttle. Two more lines, the L line between Brooklyn and Manhattan's 14th Street and the No. 7 line between Queens and Midtown Manhattan, are currently being upgraded to be compatible with the new system. Updates to the L line are expected to be completed in six months to a year, while the No. 7 won't be ready until at least 2016.

According to the app's description, users will also be notified of service delays and reroutes prior to fare payment, a useful tool for on-the-go commuters.

Android and Windows Phone versions of the app are in the works, but unlike the iOS app, those will be built by third-party companies. The agency is also allowing developers access to the sensor data feeds, allowing app makers to build real-time tracking programs with more robust features than those offered by the official app.

MTA Subway Time for iOS is available now as a free download through the App Store.
post #2 of 38
That'll increase the crime rate!
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post #3 of 38
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post
That'll increase the crime rate!

 

Finding trains but not iPhones… 

 

Maybe New York City should ban subways.

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post #4 of 38

Thought this was commonplace! There's loads of apps like that for the London Underground, and has been for some time.

post #5 of 38
And a lovely design and GUI typical of the MTA. Those floating 2's, messing up the line height on screen 3 is painful
post #6 of 38
Well it might increase the crime rate because more people will be referring to the subway schedule on their phone - which would otherwise be in their pocket and not in front of the eyes of would be criminals.
post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post

Thought this was commonplace! There's loads of apps like that for the London Underground, and has been for some time.

 

I don't know about the London Underground, but there are a number of other apps that provide NYC Subway information, including schedules. The difference with this one is that it give arrival times based on tracking the actual positions of the trains in the tunnels, not from the schedules which are notoriously inaccurate. The lines they've included this data for already have signs on the platforms that give the same arrival time information, so it's not really that big a deal that there's no cell service on the platforms. You just have to look up, not down at your phone. It's also a relatively small subset of lines that they are providing this information for.

 

It is interesting that they are going to allow 3rd parties access to the data.

post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Finding trains but not iPhones… 

 

Maybe New York City should ban subways.

 

Bloomberg doesn't run the MTA.

post #9 of 38
Yet a few hours ago they blamed the Apple for NYC crime rate?? What is wrong with these people??
post #10 of 38

There have been apps that do this (real time countdown information) for the London Underground (and, infact, the entire UK wide national railway network) and the San Francisco BART system for ages. What's taken New York so long?

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post #11 of 38
Nyc subway is one of the only systems that runs 24 hours a day. There's a lot less time for big overhauls when you don't shut down between midnight and 6.
post #12 of 38
Hope they have a tips section for tourist noobs like myself... like a deer in the headlights when i suddenly found myself going the wrong way with a horde of people coming in my direction. A stern but helpful gentleman put two arms on my shoulders and "shifted" me out of their way. Ah, New York, New York.

I can die happy knowing I genuinely pissed off a New Yorker.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post

Thought this was commonplace! There's loads of apps like that for the London Underground, and has been for some time.

London vs NYC... Fight, fight, fight!
post #13 of 38

Umm..  so how exactly do riders get real-time location update underground?  

 

it's not NYT, it's WSJ. 

post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by tooltalk View Post

Umm..  so how exactly do riders get real-time location update underground?  

it's not NYT, it's WSJ. 

You don't have 3G in subways in New York? And... Yes, it comes to mind, BTW, "Flatbush city limits.... la la la..."
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlip View Post

There have been apps that do this (real time countdown information) for the London Underground (and, infact, the entire UK wide national railway network) and the San Francisco BART system for ages. What's taken New York so long?

The NYC subway system has over 700 miles of tracks and most of it underground. The L line was once dilapidated, forgotten, and forsaken by the MTA until hipsters decided to move into Brooklyn along that line.
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post #16 of 38
What a great use of technology! As a former resident of NYC, I can see how useful that information would be. Leaving work, restaurant, etc. you have a number of modes of transportation available to you: cab, bus, subway. Just a second to see if you just missed a train or it's on the way. Great!
post #17 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by tooltalk View Post

Umm..  so how exactly do riders get real-time location update underground?  

 

it's not NYT, it's WSJ. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sr2012 View Post


You don't have 3G in subways in New York? And... Yes, it comes to mind, BTW, "Flatbush city limits.... la la la..."

 

No, there is no cell service in the tunnels and most of the underground platforms. (Some platforms are close enough to the surface, just below the street, that you can sometimes get a signal, probably through the ventilation gratings. On the other hand, not all of the Subway is underground, even in Manhattan.)

 

But, the lines they are offering this train location data for already have signs on the platforms that provide the same arrival time information. So, for these stations, it doesn't matter if you even have an iPhone or not, you can just look at the signs.

post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


No, there is no cell service in the tunnels and most of the underground platforms. (Some platforms are close enough to the surface, just below the street, that you can sometimes get a signal, probably through the ventilation gratings. On the other hand, not all of the Subway is underground, even in Manhattan.)

But, the lines they are offering this train location data for already have signs on the platforms that provide the same arrival time information. So, for these stations, it doesn't matter if you even have an iPhone or not, you can just look at the signs.

Fair enough, thanks for the clarification. I was not being jostling, by the way.
post #19 of 38

"the MTA spent 11 years and over $228 million to install digital train-tracking sensors"

 

Somewhere a media person reads this article and writes a headline : "MPA pays $228 million in Apple tax! Outrage! Hysteria!"

post #20 of 38
Why is the A,C,E line always behind on cool stuff like this? The number lines always get the neat stuff first. A,C,E is still running those old uncomfortable stock, too.

Come on, MTA. Give some love to A,C,E.
post #21 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

 

No, there is no cell service in the tunnels and most of the underground platforms. (Some platforms are close enough to the surface, just below the street, that you can sometimes get a signal, probably through the ventilation gratings. On the other hand, not all of the Subway is underground, even in Manhattan.)

For the record that's not true. Transit Wireless runs ATT/TMo at a number of stops and is expanding to more in the next year. There's free Wifi in spots too. While not MTA subway, Verizon runs LTE through the Hudson rail tunnel (Amtrak/NJ Transit) from Secaucus to Penn Station.

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post #22 of 38
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Originally Posted by thataveragejoe View Post

For the record that's not true. Transit Wireless runs ATT/TMo at a number of stops and is expanding to more in the next year. There's free Wifi in spots too. While not MTA subway, Verizon runs LTE through the Hudson rail tunnel (Amtrak/NJ Transit) from Secaucus to Penn Station.

 

Actually, if you read what I wrote, for the record, it is true. But, as pointed out, it doesn't matter because for the stations they provide this data, there are already overhead signs that give the same information.

 

Quote:
... there is no cell service in the tunnels and most of the underground platforms. ...

 

BTW, here's the status of service in the Subways:

 

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/cell-phone-service-on-some-subway-platforms-starts-next-week/

 

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/cellphone-and-wireless-service-coming-to-more-subway-stations/

 

At this point, it's insignificant, and limited to a tiny number of stations: 6 out of 468 (although, many of those 468 are above ground, so do have service). And, the number of stations where you can sometimes get a signal through the gratings is definitely higher than those 6. It's going to be years before the system has full coverage underground, especially in the boroughs, since all the money gets spent in Manhattan.


Edited by anonymouse - 12/29/12 at 8:24am
post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Actually, if you read what I wrote, for the record, it is true. But, as pointed out, it doesn't matter because for the stations they provide this data, there are already overhead signs that give the same information.

 

One big thing with the overheads is that if you're pulling into a station and are considering switching to an express or another train, if it's coming along soon, or staying put if nothing is, the signs don't help.  I use EmBark within the train for this and even though it only relies on scheduling info I find it extremely helpful.  

 

Even though it's true that it can vary from the reality of the arrivals, in practice I find that nearly all of the time the train does in fact arrive nearly dead-on.  Maybe it's just my lines, but I find claims of the NYC subway times being wildly off schedule to be very untrue.

 

The buses, OTOH...  :  )

post #24 of 38
Practically useless except on parts of the few lines indicated (which is obviously why they're doing those first) since it won't work underground. And it's certainly not needed for the Shuttle because there is ALWAYS a shuttle in each of the two stations, ready to go (and it won't work anyway, because it's underground).

Furthermore, as they build out the "next train coming" tech, they're putting electronic signs in the stations that tell you this, just as they have on the London Underground. So there's no need to take out your device - the information is there anyway.

There are other apps for the NYC subway that have the maps, routes and delay or changed route information that are quite good. This one has the addition of real time "next train" info, but it's not very practical until there's service underground and for the reasons already mentioned.

When the MTA announced that they were going to start putting up electronic signs in the station to tell you when the next train was coming, I was opposed. It's costing something like a $1 billion to accomplish this and IMO, they would have been far better off spending that money simply adding more trains to each route. When I was a kid and lived at the next to last stop on the #1 train, during rush hour in the mornings, they used to send a train down every 60 seconds. You don't need an electronic sign or app to tell you when the next train is coming if there's always one coming.
post #25 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlandd View Post

One big thing with the overheads is that if you're pulling into a station and are considering switching to an express or another train, if it's coming along soon, or staying put if nothing is, the signs don't help.  I use EmBark within the train for this and even though it only relies on scheduling info I find it extremely helpful. ...

 

This is why we need an app that takes into account all data and probabilities, including things like: how long is it worth waiting for the express based on your destination, do you have a seat now, what are your odds of getting into a bum car if you switch trains.

post #26 of 38

Now, at least, the thieves who stole your iPhone will be able to catch their train.

post #27 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunabku View Post

Well it might increase the crime rate because more people will be referring to the subway schedule on their phone - which would otherwise be in their pocket and not in front of the eyes of would be criminals.

If it's that bad, move or carry a gun.

post #28 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post

Thought this was commonplace! There's loads of apps like that for the London Underground, and has been for some time.

I don't know about the London Underground, but there are a number of other apps that provide NYC Subway information, including schedules. The difference with this one is that it give arrival times based on tracking the actual positions of the trains in the tunnels, not from the schedules which are notoriously inaccurate.

Gee, world-class cities like e.g. Vienna have this exact thing for years now; and not just on a handful of lines but for the entire subway & tram & bus system; not only indicating real time arrival times, but also indicating what kind of train is coming, low floor (more easily handicap accessible) or high floor.
Check out the Quando app in the AppStore. It will even give walking directions and alternative routes for full, real-time door-to-door public transport navigation.
People in the US always think their countries and cities are cutting edge; far from it; many parts of the US look like third world countries; daily more so as infrastructure falls into ever worse disrepair thanks to Congress' inaction.
post #29 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post


Gee, world-class cities like e.g. Vienna have this exact thing for years now; and not just on a handful of lines but for the entire subway & tram & bus system; not only indicating real time arrival times, but also indicating what kind of train is coming, low floor (more easily handicap accessible) or high floor.
Check out the Quando app in the AppStore. It will even give walking directions and alternative routes for full, real-time door-to-door public transport navigation.
People in the US always think their countries and cities are cutting edge; far from it; many parts of the US look like third world countries; daily more so as infrastructure falls into ever worse disrepair thanks to Congress' inaction.

 

Well, yes, but in fairness, the NYC subway is much older and fat more extensive than Vienna's:

 

Quote:
NYC Transit - with 468 subway stations - has only 60 fewer stations than the combined total of all other subway systems in the country.
 

 

CORRECTION: Actually it's apparently not older, with the Vienna Metro opening in 1898 and the NYC Subway beginning service in 1904, but it is much more extensive, with Vienna having only 76 stations vs 468 in NY.

 

-- http://homepage.univie.ac.at/horst.prillinger/metro/english/facts.html


Edited by anonymouse - 12/30/12 at 7:26am
post #30 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlip View Post

There have been apps that do this (real time countdown information) for the London Underground (and, infact, the entire UK wide national railway network) and the San Francisco BART system for ages. What's taken New York so long?

It's New York: the simultaneously greatest and often most frustrating city in the world. For so many reasons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post


Gee, world-class cities like e.g. Vienna have this exact thing for years now; and not just on a handful of lines but for the entire subway & tram & bus system; not only indicating real time arrival times, but also indicating what kind of train is coming, low floor (more easily handicap accessible) or high floor.
Check out the Quando app in the AppStore. It will even give walking directions and alternative routes for full, real-time door-to-door public transport navigation.
People in the US always think their countries and cities are cutting edge; far from it; many parts of the US look like third world countries; daily more so as infrastructure falls into ever worse disrepair thanks to Congress' inaction.

Amsterdam had electronic arrival time signs posted outside and inside of train stations when I was there in 1997.  Bus info too.  Seemed like Arthur C. Clarke's definition of "magic" at the time and a big help.  And just noted that a new, more advanced system covering tram, buses, metro, ferries and trains - including apps and trip planners - started in 2010. 

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post #31 of 38

It's worth noting, to those who compare NYC's subways to others, that it was not constructed as a whole but rather grew from several private and then city owned lines which gradually merged and changed hands until it became the far reaching, single system it is today.  So it's not only the age and size but the fact that it was not originally built as a single, connected system.  This doesn't affect things like the wireless technology coming in.  But huge construction undertakings have been required to make the separate lines as connected as they are, and it's more complicated than just the city's stratification, as some see the difference in services in the different lines.

post #32 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcfa View Post


Gee, world-class cities like e.g. Vienna have this exact thing for years now; and not just on a handful of lines but for the entire subway & tram & bus system; not only indicating real time arrival times, but also indicating what kind of train is coming, low floor (more easily handicap accessible) or high floor.
Check out the Quando app in the AppStore. It will even give walking directions and alternative routes for full, real-time door-to-door public transport navigation.
People in the US always think their countries and cities are cutting edge; far from it; many parts of the US look like third world countries; daily more so as infrastructure falls into ever worse disrepair thanks to Congress' inaction.

 

Well, yes, but in fairness, the NYC subway is much older and fat more extensive than Vienna's:

 

Quote:
NYC Transit - with 468 subway stations - has only 60 fewer stations than the combined total of all other subway systems in the country.
 

 

CORRECTION: Actually it's apparently not older, with the Vienna Metro opening in 1898 and the NYC Subway beginning service in 1904, but it is much more extensive, with Vienna having only 76 stations vs 468 in NY.

 

-- http://homepage.univie.ac.at/horst.prillinger/metro/english/facts.html


Sure, but in NYC only six of the lines are currently part of the system, while in Vienna not just the subway, but also the tramway, S-Bahn system and the busses are included, and the tramway system alone is the 5th largest in the world with 1031 stops just for the tramway. Public transport is multi-tired in Vienna, with different systems preferred depending on speed, distance, population density etc.

Also the system in Vienna is fully operational for a few years now, not just starting up.

Anyway, my point wasn't which is better, just pointing out the myopic view that presents it as if it were a groundbreaking first.

post #33 of 38

Quote:

Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

When the MTA announced that they were going to start putting up electronic signs in the station to tell you when the next train was coming, I was opposed. It's costing something like a $1 billion to accomplish this and IMO, they would have been far better off spending that money simply adding more trains to each route. When I was a kid and lived at the next to last stop on the #1 train, during rush hour in the mornings, they used to send a train down every 60 seconds. You don't need an electronic sign or app to tell you when the next train is coming if there's always one coming.

 

The sensors are used also for other things, not just train info. They measure also the state of wheels, bearings, etc. to prevent trains from breaking down, etc. by better being able to predict maintenance requirements, etc.

 

There was an interesting article on that sort of stuff in some IT magazine a while ago, although there it was on CSX ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSX_Transportation )

post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlandd View Post

It's worth noting, to those who compare NYC's subways to others, that it was not constructed as a whole but rather grew from several private and then city owned lines which gradually merged and changed hands until it became the far reaching, single system it is today.

 

This is also true of the London Underground, which incorporates the oldest underground train lines in the world, yet the real time info system has been established for some years now.

In fairness to New York though, the London Underground doesn't run 24 hours a day.

post #35 of 38
Well $280 mil is understandable, but 11 years? Thats just insane.

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post #36 of 38
Probably one of the most sensible uses of gps and location tracking that will help not just the authorities but also the users. I wonder why it takes so long when technology is so easily attainable for government agencies to incorporate such enormously useful features.
post #37 of 38
I think the MTA should be embarrassed by the fact it took them 10 years to deploy this technology. Technology innovations in the real world happen at such a quick pace, 10 years is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of the funds the MTA always seems to be complaining about not having. This article says the next train lines expected to get updated will be finished in 2016?? Will these sensors even be relevant in 2016?
post #38 of 38

I would generally agree with the premise that MTA has unique challenges in updating their service - hours of operation - volume - inclement weather. But in this case it's clear the MTA has competency issues. Why are they applying sensor technology to the tracks? Updating a train car and the entry/exit point of each station is much less invasive than servicing thousands of miles of tracks too. A train car doesn't need to communicate with the tracks to provide meaningful data. I feel like the MTA just wants to keep relying on their archaic central control board.

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