CTA Discover, the Chicago Transit Authority's new app, tracks riders, not busses or trains

CHICAGO | In the past, if you wanted to use the CTA app, you had to know what line you needed and where the closest stop was located. Now, you don't even have to know where you are.

By opening CTA Discover, the Chicago Transit Authority's new app, with a smart phone or a computer with Wi-Fi connection, users will instantly know their location — and all the buses and trains that are coming to the stops nearby.

CTA AppThe new app is still being tested, and it's not clear when it will be put into formal service.

"It's a good idea for the CTA, for its brand and for their customers' convenience to make a Web app that merges the CTA Bus Tracker and Train Tracker apps," said Steven Vance, a former city transportation department employee who contributes to the transportation blog www.gridchicago.com.

"One of the coolest features is that it can discover where you are to show you a map with you in the center and the transit that surrounds you," he said.

The CTA's current apps are Bus Tracker and Train Tracker, which are separated from each other. By using them, customers have to choose a bus route or train line, then the direction, and a stop, to see the arrival times of the coming buses or trains.

But in many circumstances, customers don't know which bus routes or train lines they should take, and where the stops are located.

In a tryout of CTA Discover, the user's location was automatically detected and showed in a map a couple of seconds after the app was open. The map featured all the CTA bus and train stops in walking distance. Like the bus and train trackers, arrival information was shown when the stops were clicked.

"It may help tourists or folks not familiar with an area discover what transit options there are and what the routes are," said Kevin O'Neil, a veteran transit blogger known as the CTA Tattler. "I like that you can click on a bus and view the route for that bus."

The maps of bus routes and train lines were not available in the CTA's current apps.

Although CTA Discover combines the CTA's bus and train trackers into one, Vance said, an app that could show all transit options rather than just those in the CTA's system would be more convenient to riders.

"It would be good for transit passengers if all of the agencies, including the CTA, Pace and Metra, worked together to create a single, location-aware Web app," he said.

Pace has a bus tracker on its website called WebWatch; Metra doesn't have train-tracking service.

Multiple attempts to reach CTA officials for comment went unanswered.

Tags: bus, cta, mobile apps, train, transportation

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