Google maps now include real time subway departure info
Updated: 2:10 p.m., March 28th, 2012 The eternal mystery of knowing when your train is coming just got a little easier to solve -- on some lines, at least.
Riders can now use Google to find out when trains are coming on the No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 lines as the web giant has updated its online and mobile maps app to include real-time arrival information.
Riders -- like Mike Vasquez, who learned about the service from an amNewYork reporter -- were thrilled to hear about the new service.
"No way," said Vasquez, 22, reaching for his phone at the 34th Street stop while en route to the No. 2 train. "Of course I'd use it."
Users who log onto Google Maps can click on any station where those trains stop and a box will pop up showing the next two or three times the train is coming. The times are updated constantly.
Clicking on the lettered lines and the No. 7 will indefinitely get you the standard schedule information, which isn't real time.
In December, the MTA made the data that powers its "Subway Time" technology -- which sends arrival information to some countdown clocks in stations -- available to developers to create new apps.
The response has been tremendous, an MTA spokesman said.
Other arrival time apps include SchedNYC, Roadify and the MTA's in-house app MTA Subway Time. Although this isn't the first program to provide data about subway timings, commuter advocates say Google's new tool is a big step forward.
Cate Contino, the coordinator at the Straphangers Campaign. said the No. 4, 5, 6 lines are the busiest in the city and have more riders than Boston's entire subway system, so having real-time information on a popular app would make a lot of rush hours more pleasant.
"It's a real validation for what the MTA is doing," she said. "They have been trying to get the information out there."
Contino noted that the programs all suffer the same roadblock since almost all of the subway platforms don't have cellphone or Wi-Fi reception.
The Subway Time technology is also only used for those six lines because the rest of the trains, save for the L train, use older technology to track times.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency has already come up with ways to circumvent that technological barrier with audio announcements.
"It's not as all encompassing as the numbered lines, but we're looking at ways real-time arrival could be brought to those lines," he said.
A spokesperson for Google told amNewYork: "Google Maps Transit is another way of making Google Maps more comprehensive, accurate and useful for millions around the world who take buses, trains, subways or trams. We hope additional live information in Google Maps for the New York City subway will help straphangers get to their destination more quickly and easily."
HOW IT WORKS
Getting real-time arrival information about the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines is simple on Google Maps. Anyone who has Internet access on their phone or computer can use the app or website, respectively, and search for any of those trains’ stations.
Users can then click or tap on the station to see the next two times that the train will be at the station. The Google Maps data automatically updates itself and uses the same technology that powers the countdown clocks that are in the stations.
HOW THE MTA KEEPS YOU IN THE LOOP
There are other ways to find out when your train or bus is coming.
The MTA has set up digital clocks that tell straphangers how much time they have to wait for the next train. Clocks are now available in stations that serve the No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and L lines as well as selected upper Manhattan stations.
Commuters for select bus lines in Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx can receive updates on the MTA’s website atbustime.mta.info.
The MTA is working on bringing countdown clocks to all of its subway stations. However, that would require an upgrade of its tracking system. The agency has set up computer-voiced announcements at several stops to let riders know how much longer they have to wait for the next train.