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Metra unveils new train tracker system

MetrHome Page with live tratracker data.

Metra Home Page with live train tracker data.

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:23AM

Metra riders will get precise departure times via a new train tracker system that will use GPS technology, the transit agency announced Thursday.

The Rail-Time Tracker feature on Metra’s website and mobile website will give riders the status of trains arriving at every station on the Metra system.

It follows similar systems put in place last year by CTA and Pace.

Metra’s tracker shows the scheduled departure times of trains in one column, and whether the trains are on time or running late in another. If trains are late, riders will know the estimated arrival time.

The new system is linked to Metra’s GPS tracking system, which uses satellites to plot the exact locations of all trains in the system and can record precisely when a train arrives at and leaves each station, Metra said.

Metra already uses the GPS system to warn riders when trains are significantly delayed and to compile on-time performance reports. But the new tracker makes the real-time data available to riders, the agency said.

Metra will still send e-alerts when trains are more than 15 minutes late on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends. But the train tracker will let riders know when a train is going to be even a minute late.

The tracker cost about $80,000 to develop and was funded by a grant from the RTA.

Metra had until this Sunday to launch the program in accordance with a 2011 law that required the regional mass transit service boards to make available a web-based real-time arrival information for riders.

Some riders at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on Thursday hadn’t heard the news, but were busy checking on their schedules on iPhone and Android apps. Those applications allow riders to simply know when trains are scheduled to leave. The new tracker will give a more precise time if a delay is to occur.

Gabriela Jaquinto, 19, travels to and from Crystal Lake almost every weekday.

“I will definitely use the tracker,” Jaquinto said. “I haven’t dealt with too many delays, but if I can have a more exact way of knowing when my train is leaving, that will be great.”

But for Brian Friberg, 52, the news doesn’t really matter. He doesn’t have a smart phone, which would enable him to check on delays while waiting for a train. He’s been riding Metra for six years to get back and forth from Mount Prospect. “These trains get me where I want to go, delay or no delay, and it’s a hell of a lot better than driving,” Friberg said.

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