Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Track that route!

Drivers do it, thanks to traffic reports delivered by radio, text message, GPS device and desktop. Airlines do it for those anticipating a passenger. Tracking your transit and estimating arrival time is part of getting around.

Resources are growing to allow mass transit users to do the same.

The CTA Tattler would like the CTA to put GPS-powered bus tracking on the computer desktop. Increased accessibility of travel information allows commuters to better plan their routes.

While we’re on the subject, CTA’s Bus Tracker has a text-based alternate interface for mobile phones. Pace already has a web-based bus tracker, but it doesn’t appear to be WAP-browser friendly. A streamlined interface for mobile web devices would be an excellent enhancement.

Metra posts “significant” delays on its web site. I’d like to see a text alert system whereby users could be automatically alerted of delays.

These enhancements may never materialize in the budget-crunched real world of public transit agencies, but a commuter can dream.

Then there are the privately-operated services from Google and CTA Tattler.

Google Transit hasn’t fully rolled out in Chicagoland yet, but it looks promising. The app lets you enter a starting address and destination along with your starting or desired arrival time, and it provides the bus or train itineraries needed for your route.

Perhaps Google will also provide what the transit agencies do not: Customizable alerts, desktop interfacing, and integration with Google SMS (Text 466453 with your query, and receive a text reply from Google with results).

If TXT is your THNG, CTA Tattler offers the CTA Alerts SMS notification service. The service works like an email bulletin board: Group members share information about delays with other members via text messages. I haven’t tested the service, but it could be a good way to provide near-instant access to information and for commuters to help one another, so long as your fellow commuters provide accurate and timely data.

Filed under: Mass Transit, , , , , , ,

3 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. kilax says:

    It would be great if Metra was better about explaining the delays to people ON the train. They take forever to tell you there is a delay, even though you are sitting there wondering how off schedule you are because the train has stopped!

  2. Good point, kilax!

    Speaking of Metra and notification, I rarely hear the station announcements being made on the outbound trains anymore. I’ve tried riding in older cars and newer cars, and 4 times out of 5 the automated system doesn’t announce the stations.

    This was especially annoying during Standard Time when it would be dark outside before I reached my stop.

    Not everyone takes the same train every day nor has the schedule handy, so the station announcements provide a customer service. Plus, the announcements wake you up so that you don’t miss your stop!

  3. […] Transit rolls into Chicago Posted on April 8, 2008 by lake county motorist Google Transit, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, has finally rolled into Chicago with a bit of fanfare. For now, only CTA schedules […]

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