The Chicago Transit Authority tweeted for the first time yesterday morning at 10:59 AM. They said, “This is an official announcement from CTA: Hello”. They had 1 follower at the time of the tweet (it was me). 25 minutes later they had 49 new followers.
7 hours and 31 minutes later (I checked at random times), they had 1,338 followers. That’s fast.
36 hours later, they have 1,928 followers.
They also launched a page on Facebook and an updates service delivered via email or SMS (text messaging). We’re glad CTA is now on social media (it took awhile). But these are just a few tools out of many that the CTA has for its customers to get information. Let me list them all for you:
A CTA passenger waits for a train in the snow at Belmont Brown Line station. Photo by Mike Priorie.
Knowing when your bus or train is about to come can help you make better decisions. “Do I have enough time to get coffee from the shop across the street?” “Can I pack my own lunch today?” “If I miss this bus because I can’t find my good shoes, how long will it be to the next one”? I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves these questions*. The Chicago Transit Authority’s transit tracking services can help with the answers. Continue reading The state of transit trackers in Chicago
Transit Tracks makes it very easy to find stops near you, and doesn’t place restrictions on how many appear in the map.
I reviewed only the free versions. Updated October 19, 2011, to add a third transit tracker app.
||Chicago Transit Tracker Lite
||TreKing 4 Free
- Locates nearest bus stop
- Shows system alerts from CTA
- Shows current temperature
- Shows time of last update
- Locates ALL nearby bus stops using your GPS
- Has a more logical method to manually select bus stops and train stations
- Allows you to group favorite stops/stations
- Has better aesthetics – easier to read favorites listing
- User swipes the screen to show the opposite direction bus or train
- System map shows the familiar Google Maps and allows user to select nearby bus stops and train stations
- When no more service, reports “No running buses”
- Pro version offers Metra schedules and Pace bus predictions (I didn’t test this)
- Very logical method to select your bus stop or train station (this is called a “trek”)
- Lets you save a custom name for a specific stop or station (but gives predefined name)
- Allows you to group saved stops/stations
- Quick Treks feature locates nearby stops and stations
- Pro version has a trip planner (“Trek Planner”)
- Move, rename, or delete groups by holding your finger on the group (very easy)
- It appears you can set alerts in the pay version that tell you when to get off the bus/train, or when the bus/train is about to arrive
- In the pay version you can add time to the prediction so you’re less likely to miss a bus/train if it’s early
- Only displays a single nearby bus stop in free version using your GPS
- Shows ads in free version
- Favorites listing appears in a confusing way
- Shows ALL system alerts, and not ones relevant to my favorite routes
- System map loads a CTA website
- When no more service, reports “No arrival times”
- To add a favorite stop manually, text search function works in unexpected way
- To add a favorite stop manually, the choices are confusing. There are 4 choices for Addison-Blue, one for each possible terminus (Forest Park, Jefferson Park, O’Hare, UIC)
- Does not retrieve system alerts from CTA
- Does not show temperature
- Does not show time of last update
- Shows ads
- When you first select CTA Trains as the system you want to track, a huge list of confusing caveats shows up. I don’t think they’re all true.
- Method to select your trip route takes a lot of time
- Selecting a “To Stop”, which is optional, doesn’t change anything
- Shows ads
- Quick Trek feature in free version limited to 1/8th mile (one block)
- There isn’t a function you do without the app showing a popup to tell you about the pay version
- Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus stop with ID 1
- Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus route with route 1, Indiana/Hyde Park
- Map in free version doesn’t show bus location in real-time
- “Trek Planner” in free version only shows trip from your location to Sears Tower or Navy Pier – your choice!
On grouping: One group could be for the stops/stations you use to get to work and the other group could be for the return trip.
My recommendation: Transit Tracks. It’s very hard to review TreKing 4 Free because it seems most features are only available in the pay version.