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MBTA Green Line 3-Car Train, March 16, 2011Today, the MBTA will begin providing real-time information on the Green Line for the first time in the line’s 117 year history. Real-time data on the location of Green Line trains will be fed to the dozens of MBTA real-time apps. This will mark the completion of the first phase of a project to provide real-time information and predictions to the Green Line’s 227,000 daily customers.

“Today marks an important milestone in one of the most highly-anticipated projects the MBTA has undertaken in recent years,” said MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey. “Following the revolutionary release of our real-time data to developers and the installation of the customer-favorite Countdown Clocks, Green Line customers will now begin to have the same level of information to make better-informed travel decisions while riding the surface lines of the MBTA.”

The Phase I release entails adding above-ground Green Line train locations to the MBTA real-time data feed, allowing developers who produce apps to provide information about where the next train is. This important step in better informing customers is another direct benefit of the MBTA’s pioneering Open Data Initiative. After first releasing its schedule data to developers in 2009, the MBTA jumped to the forefront of sharing real-time transit data by making live location and prediction data for all 1,000 buses available to developers in 2010. It has since then made heavy rail subway and commuter rail real-time data available; beyond offering predictions on its own website the MBTA has a page highlighting over 50 third-party apps.

“By approaching the question of ‘where’s my train?’ using innovation and efficiency as our guidelines,” said MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott. ‘What we’re able to wind up doing – ahead of schedule and under budget – is provide over 227,000 Green Line customers with real-time information to help them make more informed decisions while they travel the system.”

The next phase, expected by the end of the fall, will include producing predicted arrival times for the Green Line, starting with the above-ground branches. Above ground predictions are expected to be ready by the beginning of December, enabling the MBTA to include these in the MBTA real-time data feed and to begin activating countdown signs at surface stations on the D branch. Customers on other lines will be able to see predictions on their phones and other devices. Phase III of the project will deliver predictions to Green Line subway stations, currently planned for early winter, when tracking hardware is installed in the tunnels.

The Green Line tracking project has been a priority of MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey and is fully funded by a state grant. Though the original schedule called for information to be available in 2015, the MBTA was able to accelerate the project and decrease costs by using standard GPS hardware and leveraging internal resources for installation and data integration. This eliminated the time-consuming and costly step of hiring a systems integrator and gave the MBTA more control over the project’s timeline. The entire fleet of 225 Green Line trains will be equipped with GPS technology for approximately $1 million, including the installation labor. Currently all of the Type 8 cars have GPS, and because 98% of trains contain at least one Type 8 car for accessibility, we can confidently release the GPS information to the public. The Type 7 cars are currently being overhauled and will receive GPS equipment as part of that process, bringing the entire fleet to completion by the end of the overhaul cycle.

Because GPS does not work underground, track sensors known as Automatic Vehicle Identifiers (AVIs) are being installed to track trains in the tunnels. There are some existing AVIs every few stations, but this is not sufficient for predictions, so new AVIs are being installed for finer resolution. New AVIs are scheduled to be installed this winter, enabling predictions to be made at Green Line subway stations shortly thereafter.

This data release is just the latest step towards providing customers with more timely and accurate information as they use the MBTA system. The smart use of innovation to improve people’s trips has been a priority of Secretary Davey’s tenure as both MBTA General Manager and MassDOT Secretary as he oversaw the introduction of Countdown Clocks on the Red, Orange and Blue Lines and the “mTicket” mobile ticketing system for Commuter Rail and Ferry, among others.

The MBTA App Showcase can be found here:


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