Instead of staring down the tracks hoping to see the notoriously unpredictable Green Line train approaching, MBTA riders can now stare at their smartphone screens for an idea of how much longer it will take to arrive.
As of October 23, Green Line passengers are able to check an app on their smartphones that tells them how many stops the train has before it reaches the station.
“When you’re above ground on the Green Line, you will be able to see if the train’s four stops away, or if it’s two stops away,” says the MBTA’s Special Assistant for Strategic Initiatives, Don Tribone.
The new real-time tracking technology is being introduced in segments and this is just “phase one” of the process. T maintenance workers have been outfitting the trolleys with brand-new GPS systems over the past several months in order to make the tracking system possible. The location of the train is transmitted to MBTA riders through apps created by local developers that can be downloaded onto their smartphones.
This information is currently only available on above-ground trains. The process of releasing tracking information is being staggered because the MBTA wants to make information available to the public as soon as possible. By December, the MBTA hopes to have developed the tracking system to give riders the exact times of when an above-ground train will reach the station, rather than the number of stops it has left before arrival.
“Phase two” has started with the installation of tracking equipment in the Green Line’s underground tunnels. MBTA officials hope to complete this phase by 2015. Eventually, riders will be able to track the exact arrival times of their trains both above and underground along the B, C, D and E lines of the Green Line.
Some apps that can access this new above-ground tracking information include ProximiT, an iOS app, Transit App, available on iOS and Android, and Live MBTA Subway Mapping and MBTAinfo.com, both web-based trackers.
Tracking data has been available for software developers to create apps for the Blue, Red and Orange lines since 2010. Due to infrastructure obstacles and the “lack of location output,” tracking the Green Line has been a much longer process.
Kelly Smith, a T spokesperson, says, “We did the ground work and made data available, but now it’s up to the [software] developers so people can continue to use the apps they are comfortable and familiar with.”
Last September, LED signs at the Green Line’s Kenmore Square station were installed, which informed passengers when a train was rolling but gave no information about its anticipated arrival time. More LED signs will be installed in the future to tap into and display the real-time tracking data for Green Line riders.
It has taken nearly five years, but tracking above-ground on the Green Line is finally possible. This is a huge relief for the quarter-of-a-million people who ride the Green Line every day, heralding a future without the uncertainty of wondering when the next train to pull up.