By Tracy Swartz @tracyswartz
12:05 AM CDT, May 15, 2013
CTA riders now will be able to track their trains through various stops, search for train stations near them and see trains move on an interactive map using their phones or Web browser as part of new train tracker features the CTA plans to introduce Wednesday.
The new tools include:
>> Follow this train: Riders can use their phone or browser to click on an approaching train to find out how long it should take them to reach their destination instead of just being able to see when their trains are going to pick them up.
>> Stops near me: Riders with GPS devices can now search for train stops closest to them.
>> Station name search: Riders can find stations by typing in a few letters of the station's name instead of having to scroll down a screen to find the stop.
>> Better schedule information: This will help riders who travel during off-peak hours and start their trips near the end of lines.
>> Train location map: Riders with desktop computers can watch trains move in real time on an interactive map.
These are the first major upgrades in a year to the Train Tracker system, which was launched in 2011 and expanded last year to allow riders to get estimated train arrival times via text message.
CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said the features were rolled out in time for the five-month shutdown of the Red Line south of Roosevelt Road, which starts Sunday. During the closure, Red Line trains will run on Green Line tracks.
At CTA headquarters, RedEye was able to test the new features, which went live Tuesday.
The features worked well on the desktop computer, and it was helpful to see the times when trains would arrive at their destinations, but there are a few problems to work through.
Subway riders may have difficulty using the features that rely on GPS because cell service in some areas of the Red and Blue line subways is spotty--though the CTA said it is working to improve its underground network.
When it comes to delays, the CTA tells the riders tracking their trains that the trains are "delayed" but doesn't specify if the delay is significant (think last week's Red Line derailment) or temporary. The CTA does mention on its main site the location and reason for the delay.
The CTA encourages riders to let them know what features they like and what tools they would like to see.
"We'll be listening to what our customers want," said Tony Coppoletta, CTA manager for external electronic communications.
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