Heads up! CTA trip planners don't "see" closed North Red Line stations

By Patrick Barry, reprinted from CTA Station Watch

A few weeks back, a reader brought to our attention that the CTA's two trip planners didn't seem to know that the Granville station had closed for six weeks. A test confirmed that both of the automated tools -- powered by Google Maps and Gooroo (RTA) – were sending riders through the Granville station, and are now sending them to the closed Morse station as well.

We brought it to the attention of Tony Coppoletta, CTA's Manager of External Electronic Communications. He thanked us and said he thought it would be a relatively easy fix involving a chunk of code.

Alas, it's not that simple.

After checking with the CTA's Planning Department, Coppoletta reported back that there are "technical hurdles that make it difficult to do this with certain events, like these."

The problem involves the CTA's "GTFS feed" – that's your General Transit Feed Specification – which is a standardized format that transit agencies use to supply data to developers of mapping sites, schedulers and mobile apps.

"There are some limitations in the tools at our disposal," Coppoletta said, "that prevent us from being able to get them to reflect these temporary closures effectively." Specifically, the closures for the Red Line station repairs are temporary, open-ended ("up to six weeks") and overlapping, and the developers require a certain amount of lead time to implement the changes.

Coppoletta said that CTA is looking into some fixes that would, in the future, allow inclusion of short-term disruptions in trip planners. In the meantime, CTA is spreading the word in other ways, including:

  • Data syndication, including direct pointers from Google to a route information page that includes alerts.
  • Signs at affected stations and alert cards at all Red Line stations in advance of closures.
  • Regular updates on the CTA website in the alerts section and on Red Line, station and Train Tracker pages.
  • A strong social media push.

If any code gurus out there have a fix, let us know. Otherwise, let's all help spread the word that CTA's trip planners aren't reflecting the closure of Granville and Morse now, and the other stations later.

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Since this was posted last week on CTA Station Watch, some data gurus did indeed have some suggestions on Open Government Chicago-land.

All you data geeks can read the thread.

Be sure to post photos and news about the North Red Line Interim Station Improvements at CTA Station Watch, a crowd-sourced website covering the  renovations at stations from Wilson to Howard. To contribute, tweet news of the station projects with hashtags like this -- #granvillecta, #morsecta, etc – and they'll appear on the site. Or post photos through Facebook.

Comments

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  • So, I suppose that on July 2, 2013, this stuff will tell someone to take the Red Line to 69th and then the 30 bus from there.

    Not to mention that this probably guarantees that gooroo will be even more inaccurate than usual. We, of course, really need Google Transit and a defective RTA program. And, does Tony even talk to the RTA?

  • I'm no data geek, so I don't fully understand the suggestions. But my point (which I also made on the Station Watch site) is that if they can't reprogram the directions, they need to get cautions and warnings as close as possible to the false results. An alert elsewhere on the CTA site, or on the station itself, does little to override the learned inclination to trust the directions given.

    On one level I was very well aware that Granville was closed, yet this awareness didn't engage as I went about the process of generating and following the directions. It doesn't seem to matter that the knowledge of a closure is in your brain, because it's somehow subordinated to the memories of past trips that the directions bring up. Maybe it's because you don't have a mental picture of yourself NOT going there. The best shot at overriding this phenomenon would be to have the "don't forget to second-guess these results" warning right there next to the results.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I'm not a data geek either, but Pace posted the files needed to create an application, although not sufficient (they said) to recreate Webwatch (their lousy tracker). Go to pacebus.com > About Pace > GTFS Data Services.

    Pace says text files are necessary for list of stops, list of routes, each trip taken by a vehicle, stop times for each, and a calendar defining what service operates on what days.

    To implement changes, someone has to edit those text files. Apparently, CTA could to some extent, in that BusTracker did reflect reroutings caused by the Wacker Dr. project. For instance, the current 126 map indicates that it goes over the Monroe St. Bridge.

    Also, as was noted on chicagobus.org, the Metra tracker had the weekday schedule for July 4. Apparently, Metra doesn't have a correct calendar file.

  • The CTA Bustracker can't even get the timings correct for route #123 even after you have brought it to the attention of the CTA.

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