MBTA: Real-time Green Line tracking 'several years away,' but commuter-rail riders could soon get apps

App developer: Tim Murray, Catch the Train developer Jared Egan and T GM Richard DaveyTim Murray, Catch the T developer Jared Egan and T GM Richard Davey at Ruggles today.

MBTA and state officials today announced the release of real-time data on three of the system's four subway lines, along with plans to install monitors showing train and bus arrival info at every station where subways and buses connect.

Over the next several weeks, application developers who have already built smartphone and other apps for bus arrivals will use the new data for similar train-based services. At a ceremony at the Ruggles stop on the Orange Line, Catch the Bus builder Jared Egan showed off his upcoming Catch the T app.

MBTA General Manager Richard Davey said the Green Line was left out because, unlike the other three lines, buses and commuter rail, its trains do not have the sort of tracking systems in place to allow accurate predictions of when trains will arrive in a station. It's the same reason you don't hear "the next train to [wherever] is now approaching" announcements on the Green Line - the new real-time data is based on that announcement system for the other three lines.

Davey said real-time tracking of commuter rail trains could be just a few months away.

He added that monitors unwrapped today at Ruggles and Back Bay will eventually be joined by similar monitors at other key stations.

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    Comments

    I see lots of 20-ish

    I see lots of 20-ish programmers giving presentations, and the T-shirt with a Nintendo video game character and the floppy hair is practically a uniform at the moment.

    How hard can the Green Line

    How hard can the Green Line tracking be? Put a bus-type GPS tracker on it for when it's on the surface, and a train-type tracker on it (or on the tracks, however it's done) for when it's in a tunnel or the viaduct to Lechmere. Figuring out which branch a given trolley serves is of course trivial to figure out on the surface, and shouldn't pose a big problem in the tunnels either, given that the existing system can already tell Ashmont and Braintree trains apart.

    A couple of years?!?! WTF!!!!

    This is absolutely unacceptable. It is also more evidence that the reason the Green Line sucks so badly is antiquated kit rather than the typical excuses of volume, traffic interaction, etc. (which don't really holdup in the subway portion anyway).

    According to the ridership info section of the T's August scorecard (unfortunately, the # isn't available yet for the September scorecard, but this would likely reflect closer to 20% because of the returned student population), the Green Line carries 19% of the T's total number of riders. How the hell can the political "leadership" permit (and in the case of Babyface Murray, standby and smile while) nearly 1/5 of the transit authority's ridership be treated so shabbily?

    Let's issue the Green Line operators GPS transponders and get some of these nintendo-game-T-shirt-wearing programmer kids to whip up an app to track them and make it available to the rest of us. Even if we can't cover the entire subway portion immediately, at least we would know if we should walk to another branch (or, more likely, take a cab!) on the inbound morning ride!

    What the guy above me just said

    I agree entirely with isaacg and had also begun to write about either fixed gps tranponders or portable ones that the driver's could take with them for the shift. My God, Lo/jack has been around since 1978! If police have been able to use rudimentary equipment to track certain stolen cars for 32 years, can't the T track the Green line trolleys in 2010? Only In Massachusetts!

    Re: A couple of years?!?! WTF!!!!

    Even if they can't track Green Line trains inside the tunnels (and believe me, I get zero bars from the tunnel entrance near Kenmore until around Boylston), certainly they can use GPS to track Green Line trains when they are above ground.

    I think we are long overdue for an undercover 4-6 investigation revealing what really happens on the Green Line. Every day, commuters put up with: 10 minute stops at Park Street for "schedule adjustments", delays between Copley and Boylston due to T workers with flags controlling when trains can enter/exit Arlington during rush hour, late trains being rerouted to Park Street or "running express" past their stops, and perhaps most dubiously, waiting 20-30 minutes for their train to show up when 3-4 trains of every other branch pass by.

    Does this really happen because the Green Line is so antiquated that it can't handle the volume of passengers it has today, which is very possible? Or are there some practices on the Green Line that the T would be embarrassed about the general public finding out about?

    Didn't the central subway hit

    Didn't the central subway hit its record ridership back during WW2, when lots more trolley lines went through it? While we could certainly use some major improvements to the Green Line, I don't think that age alone is the problem.

    WTF is right! I asked a

    WTF is right! I asked a question on MBTA.com (a pretty friendly inquiry, maybe that's why I got a response) and got a reason. The Green lines (oldest of all) does not have a GPS system like the other lines. It's estimated cost is $75MM to outfit. Not I ride the Green line everyday and I know it's one of the busiest. I don't know the exact numbers but it's probably red then green line based on riders. There is no way for MBTA to know the exact Green line riders. There is definitely under count if they use ticket sales since they DO NOT enforce surface stop fare collection at all. Now, oldest and busy but they are funding the orange and blue lines? In addition, Green line is constantly dealing with signal issues and again not fitted with the same system as the other lines. If MBTA deals with it's union (typical government buracracy) over the top retirement benefit and fare collection issues we will have the system in place today.

    I've often wondered the same

    I've often wondered the same thing. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for an inbound training for 15-20 minutes and watching as 3-4 trains go by outbound, or as the above poster mentioned waiting 20+ minutes for a train underground and watching multiple trains for the other lines go by. This doesn't seem so much an antiquated equipment or volume issue so much as poor management.

    I know this is one of those things that everyone, including myself, thinks they could do better and in reality is probably more complicated than we realize, but would it honestly be that difficult to say that if 4, maybe even being generous and saying 5 trains go by, every line should be represented? Or if you have 4 trains going outbound and only 1 going in, maybe there should be a "schedule adjustment" ? Or when there are 3 trains going by a platform in the span of 5 minutes and then no trains for another 15 or 20 minutes? I won't even bother going into all the issues that occur after about 8pm and get increasingly worse as the night wears on...

    I get that tech upgrades are costly, and if the aforementioned issues were rare that would be one thing, but I'm not sure that it's really the tech that needs the upgrade...

    No there's ones that announce

    No there's ones that announce the upcoming stop too.

    Also, I've seen signals in the tunnels which tell the drivers when to stop and go. Such as at the junction of the E line and the rest of the Green Line. Something is telling those signals when to switch from green to red and whatnot.

    Nope, those are automated,

    Nope, those are automated, meaning there is a system in place to know where the train is in the tunnel.

    Also, Kenmore damn well better get 6 monitors for the buses, its a major hub

    One outside in the bus area
    One by the east tunnel entrance
    One by the west tunnel entrance
    One by the charlie machines
    One on each train platform.

    They are automated, but they

    They are automated, but they work from eqipment emmbeded on the ties which "cue" the onboard equipment on each car when to announce the stops. It also depends on counting wheel rotations to estimate the location, which is why they sometimes have to be reset by the train operator. It is not a system which generates any output data that could tell dispatchers or passengers the location of the train.

    No surprise...

    Based on personal observation, it seems that the MBTA tracks Green Line train by radio call (i.e. "Train number X, where are you?", it is gonna be a looonnnnggg time before we have any tracking. Feh.