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Train Tracker Beta is Running

Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

I guess the CTA wasn't joking about releasing the Train Tracker Beta in "early January."  It's available now, here, as well as through the mobile site, here.  So, some initial thoughts from playing around with it for a bit:


  • Mobile vs. Regular: There are several differences between the mobile and regular Train Tracker sites beyond simple aesthetics.  The mobile site doesn't Include the weather (makes sense, you're probably outside in the weather if you're using the mobile site), doesn't list the run number, and says "Due" instead of "Approaching" when a train is less than a minute away.

  • Auto-refresh.  Right now, the Regular site automatically updates every 20-30 seconds, which is fantastic.  The Mobile site not only doesn't do this, it doesn't even let you enable this.  I understand the CTA doesn't want to make this the default (don't want to automatically run up people's data usage on their phones), but it should still be an option.
  • Alerts.  Right now, the Train Tracker lists Customer and Accessibility Alerts above the arrival times.  I understand the choice to prioritize alerts over arrivals, because if the alert affects you, it's more important than when the next train arrives.  But the Alerts aren't all vital: right now on the mobile site (the Regular site is different) there are 3 alerts: 1 for the yellow line being out of service this weekend for construction of the new Oakton station; 1 for the ongoing construction of the new entrance/exit at Cermak-Chinatown, and 1 for the slow zone on the Orange line.  These last two have an ending date of "TBD." In other words, they are facts of the way the system works for the foreseeable future, and I'm really skeptical of including them as "alerts."  If most of the alerts don't reflect anything unusual about the quality of service today/this weekend, it seems to me fewer people will take the time to check if the alerts actually affect them.  (Basically the CTA is crying wolf here.)
  • Time Display.  As I wrote the other day, the CTA could easily cut down the inherent inaccuracy in the system just by displaying the time down to the second.  The beta only displays the time to the minute, so that's a thumbs down.
  • API. The CTA says it will release the API once Train Tracker is out of beta testing.  Can't wait.
Anything else of note I missed?



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