It’s nice to see the MTA embrace technology, but…
I recently downloaded the MTA’s new Subway Time App, available in the iTunes store, to see if it meets its goal of tracking trains in real time. According to its description, “MTA Subway Time gives you real-time train arrival information for selected routes of the New York City subway system. Knowing exactly when your train will arrive will reduce the time you spend waiting on the subway platform, and let you know of any service delays or reroutes before you pay your fare.”
The app currently covers the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 lines as well as the shuttle. I tested it and the timing was surprisingly accurate – trains were whizzing into the station at the times the app indicated. However, the app is a little clunky and the interface can be somewhat confusing. If you don’t have a working knowledge of a particular line’s end points, it can be difficult to determine if the trains are displayed as going uptown or downtown. The app begins with the northernmost station as the first thing you see, which doesn’t make a lot of sense: I am willing to bet the majority of subway rides do not start anywhere near the northernmost station on the line.
I’m not sure how many people will use this app to game the system and avoid long platform waits. Most New Yorkers ride the train as second nature and will likely not consult this app. However, it will be very helpful in cases of disruption, and I know the tourists will love it.
The Windows and Android versions are allegedly forthcoming and will be produced by 3rd party developers. I’m not sure who produced this version, but I wouldn’t want my name attached to it and apparently neither did the app developers. I’d strongly recommend that they pass this version on to the 3rd party developers to take a stab at improving the interface. They should also get an icon that stinks a bit less, but the tourists probably love that, too.
The city needs to remember that this app will not work in the majority of stations in the MTA system, as the city is not yet fully wired to provide cellular coverage in the subways. Perhaps the next initiative should be to follow Washington DC’s lead and provide connectivity throughout the entire the transportation system.
To download the app click here.