Some CTA Train Tracker details and basics

CTA’s Train Tracker has been live for about two days now. (Link for smartphone users.)  I’ve had a chance to use it on two different rail lines. And I’ve been reading details about it on the Chicago Transit Authority website. Here are some tips and details I’ve gathered.

How it works. “This system looks at where in-service trains are and makes estimations
based on recent travel times from one place to another, and also shows
scheduled information when predictions aren’t available due to a train
not being close enough yet to do so.”

It’s still a work in progress. The CTA stresses that they are still “working out bugs and adding additional features, including additional ways to view train
information, quicker and easier ways to get to the information that
matters to you, APIs, maps and more.”

How it’s different from Bus Tracker. Unlike Bus Tracker, Train Tracker does not ask you which direction you are traveling, only your rail station. It shows results for all rail lines served by that station, in all directions. So if you want to know when the next Howard-bound Red Line arrives at Belmont during rush hour, you may have to sort through at least 12 results from three rail lines running in two directions. Improving that experience is one suggestion I have.

Train Tracker.JPG

No info on express trains. The CTA is working on providing information on when a train runs express. Look for it in a later release.

No APIs yet for developers.
The CTA has no APIs for CTA Train Tracker data because it’s still in
beta testing. But the CTA does plan to release it as soon as the API is
stable. The CTA also warns that “attempting to “scrape” information off
the Web pages is likely to cause
instability in your apps, and our site may reject access to anyone
making an excessive number of requests to ensure overall availability.”

Electronic signs at 13 stations.
Train arrival information will be displayed on electronic screens located either on the platform or at the mezzanine level:

  • Clinton, Ashland and California (Green Line – Harlem/Lake branch)
  • Lake, Garfield, Cermak-Chinatown and Jackson (Red Line)
  • Chicago (Brown/Purple Lines)
  • Fullerton and Belmont (Red/Brown/Purple Lines)
  • Halsted (Orange Line)
  • Polk (Pink Line)
  • UIC-Halsted (Blue Line)

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  • The sign wasn't accurate in the least when I was at Clinton & Lake last Thursday. It showed the next Green Line train coming in 6 minutes.
    Except the train was already there when I read it from inside the train!

  • It worked great for me all weekend - very glad to have.

    I totally disagree about asking for direction of travel. I really enjoy not having to go through that extra step when I'm rushing to catch a train - just makes the navigation process more cumbersome.

  • I wonder if it will know if a "delayed train" is going to run express? It seems at least every third northbound redline train runs express from Wilson to Granville or Loyola. Heck at 3 in the morning I can hear the horn tooting a train is running express (can't tell which direction) from my place.
    Will it take into account single-track situations?
    How would it have worked a few weeks ago when the CTA employee fell on the tracks near Granville and trains were shut down for awhile. Or when someone jumped/fell off the tracks at Berwyn the redline was shut down for over two hours a few months back. Would they put up a notice that "due to a medical emergency all trains are standing still" or "signals are off so trains are not running".
    I know this is a Beta version lets hope they take their time and DO IT RIGHT.

  • Off topic, but there's a CTA legal notice in today's Trib about plans for the Red line north of Belmont.
    There are 6 options: do nothing, rebuild as 3 tracks, rebuild as 2 tracks underground & 3 other rehab ones.
    The notice isn't online under "Legal Notices" for some reason.

  • With regard to express, the question is whether that means unscheduled, or the Purple Line downtown. Loop to Linden is supposed to run until 10:00 a.m., and while Clark and Lake is on the Purple Line pulldown, there aren't any readings for the Purple Line at the moment.

    Mentioning that has me going in two other directions:

    1. Since the Purple Line and Brown Lines provide alternative ways of going between Mdse. Mart and Belmont, you would think the riders would want that information.

    2. As to your list of stations where the screens are located, one would think Clark/Lake would get priority because of all the upstairs and downstairs trains. One would similarly think about the two State/Lake stations, in case one wants to find up whether they have to run up or down between the L and subway.

  • In reply to jack:

    I take back my initial paragraph; the Purple Line just showed up:

    Purple Line #504 to
    5 min

    Is there something like that a train does not show up until it is close enough?

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm really happy that each stop can be bookmarked. I have minimalist pages for each bus route I take, and it's nice to know that I can do the same to get the info for rail stops immediately.

    (Speaking of which, the right URL would be anyway, wouldn't it?)

    Jack, the bus tracker works the same way: buses don't show up on it until they're within prediction range. I have only my observations but it seems to extend to as much as 25 minutes in less busy times, but may only go a few minutes out during rush hour in congested areas.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Thanks, re the last paragraph. I guess the distinction is that I usually enter Bus Tracker on the Google map, which shows everything on the route, but subject to the caveat that one has to manipulate the pull downs to get all the short terminals. That, of course, is merged in the particular stop predictor screen, i.e., at the moment:

    55 4 MINUTES To Midway Orange Line 1105

    55 12 MINUTES To St Louis 1124

    Of course, I wonder if there will be a Google Map version of Train Tracker.

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