Home MTA Technology An ‘L’ of an update for Subway Time

An ‘L’ of an update for Subway Time

by Benjamin Kabak
The update to the MTA's SubwayTime app includes real-time information for trains on the L line.

The update to the MTA’s SubwayTime app includes real-time information for trains on the L line.

L train riders, rejoice: The MTA’s real-time subway tracking app and developer feeds have been updated today with location information for the BMT Canarsie line. The update was originally due by the end of 2013, but missing a deadline by two weeks seems minor in the grand scheme of things. With the latest update to the MTA’s own iOS app and the web-based interface as well as the open-data feeds for third-party developers, L train riders can find out how long — or short — their waits will be before heading underground.

For the MTA, this is the first upgrade to the Subway Time app, and while the design or scrolling experience haven’t improved, the data available now includes arrival time estimates for eight of the city’s subway routes. Unfortunately, it’s also likely to be the last update for a few years. The CBTC signal project currently underway on the 7 line is expected to wrap in 2016, and the Flushing line could be added thereafter. The MTA is still eying a three- to five-year rollout of some sort of digital tracking system on the remainder of the lettered lines, but it’s unclear if the agency can meet that deadline.

In any event, today’s upgrade is a welcome one, even if it underscores the time we’ll have to wait for information on the rest of the system’s trains at the same time.

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Elvis Delgado January 13, 2014 - 2:38 pm

“The MTA is still eying a three- to five-year rollout of some sort of digital tracking system on the remainder of the lettered lines, but it’s unclear if the agency can meet that deadline.”

Are you kidding? Unclear to whom? It’s more than clear that they cannot and will not meet that deadline. Just look at the previous topic!

D. Graham January 13, 2014 - 7:22 pm

What you may or may not understand is that implementing the same Automatic Train Supervision type of system in the BMT/IND division comes with more hurdles than the undertaking of doing so as they have already done in the IRT.

Elvis Delgado January 14, 2014 - 9:33 am

Exactly my point!!

More Hurdles=Greater Likelihood of Missing a Deadline

If your betting preference run to sure things, then take the over on that three- to five-year rollout.

Boris January 14, 2014 - 11:50 pm

It’s similar enough to the IRT rollout that a private company or a well-functioning transit agency can build it in a matter of months, not years, or at least have an incremental rollout within a few months. The main hurdle is the MTA itself – its outdated and inefficient process, workflow, and staffing practices.

Gino January 13, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Well, they made *this* deadline, more or less. Though getting existing data from CBTC and putting it on the Internet is a lot easier than installing new equipment. But it’s easier than building ESA.

So I guess what I’m saying is they will miss the deadline by somewhere between two weeks and ten years…

Tower18 January 13, 2014 - 4:47 pm

What about Bus Time?

Benjamin Kabak January 13, 2014 - 4:48 pm

What about it?

ajedrez January 13, 2014 - 5:28 pm

When is it supposed to be coming out in Brooklyn & Queens?

Abba January 14, 2014 - 1:03 am

Someone on transit forums said January 1.Another said a few weeks.MTA said by April 2014.Guess will see who’s right.I think Febuary will see it at least on Brooklyn.

Josh January 13, 2014 - 5:07 pm

Did they make scrolling smoother in the app? That would be nice too.

Abba January 14, 2014 - 1:05 am

Not really,They did make compatible with iphone 5.No auto refresh in the app.Only the MTA desktop version has auto refresh.

Lance January 14, 2014 - 10:38 am

Since you mentioned the design of SubwayTime hasn’t improved, I feel it should be mentioned the “Weekender” app has also been updated recently. It now also features next train arrival times on the lines currently available, except the L since I believe it was updated just before the L-line data went online (though in retrospect, that isn’t a good excuse). It uses the much better method of clicking a station on the map and then clicking the stopwatch icon (or whatever it’s supposed to be) for the next arriving trains. Naturally, like SubwayTime itself, it doesn’t update in real time without backing out of the station (there isn’t some refresh button either).

Of course, I’ll just wait for iTrans to update their app with the new data as it’s a much better and fluid design than the MTA tries to put out.

tacony January 14, 2014 - 12:47 pm

It’s kind of sad that Subway Time is available for the lines that generally run the most frequently and are largely underground. I know, it’s mostly coincidence, but I would have put some priority to establishing these technologies first at the stations where people are waiting outside in the cold for less frequent services.

I also wonder about the bugs. It’s been how long and the countdown clocks are still often wrong. What’s the issue with Bedford on the L? It’s the one I most frequently find a ridiculously long wait time posted and then an L magically appears. I assume this same issue will show up in the app.

Kai B January 14, 2014 - 4:22 pm

I haven’t experienced much a problem on the L, except during times of extreme service disruption. The only thing I notice at Bedford is that the Manhattan-bound announcement occurs twice, and the first time it’s two minutes early.

Kai B January 14, 2014 - 4:20 pm

Countdown clocks are already being tested on the 7, so I wonder if a full CBTC rollout is really necessary for it to appear in the app.


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