Real-Time Tracking Coming to the MBTA’s Green Line

‘Finally,’ said everyone ever.

MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey is a man of his word.

Back in 2010, he said as the MBTA looked to enhance its technological capabilities, despite its deteriorating infrastructure, riders who frequent the Green Line trolleys and subway cars would one day be able to track their rides in real-time, without having to wait idly at T stations, wondering when their train would appear.

That time has come.

The MBTA confirmed Friday that they’re working with outside vendors to put the finishing touches on a new system in both the train cars and underground passageways so that passengers can pinpoint the exact arrival times of the Green Line using smartphone apps. The real-time tracking capabilities will likely be powered by AVI and GPS hardware.

“In keeping with the commitment made by Secretary Richard Davey last year, tracking equipment is being installed on the trolleys and in the tunnels,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in an email to Boston. “The MBTA’s goal is to begin introducing the tracking technology on the Green Line by the end of the year.”

Pesaturo said the project is “complex,” and involves carefully integrating pieces from various companies to address the working parts of the Green Line and its “unique characteristics.” In other words, the Green Line is a very old system and currently doesn’t have the capability to predict when vehicles approach stations.

An exact month for the planned rollout has not been specified, nor were the names of the companies the T is working with to complete the installations. “More information will be available later this year,” Pesaturo said.

Previous reports have indicated that the cost of the project would be somewhere in the $15 million range.

Since 2010, real-time train location data has been available to software developers to integrate into smartphone apps for riders taking the Blue, Red, and Orange lines. It took nearly five years, but the Green Line will now join the ranks.

Over the last few years, the MBTA has also introduced LED “countdown clocks” on all of the underground rapid transit lines, offering up-to-the-minute alerts about when a train will show up at a stop. The Green Line was excluded from the real-time tracking and LED projects because the trolleys don’t have sensors in place to accurately predict where vehicles are at certain points along their routes.

While technology has been lacking for the Green Line, last September Davey introduced “Next Train” LED signs at the Green Line’s Kenmore Square stop, which let passengers know a train is rolling in but don’t give advanced notice about how far away it is.

At the time of the unveiling of that pilot project, Davey told Boston the sign installations were the “first experiment” for a larger project.

Pesaturo reiterated that Davey is keeping that promise.

  • Gerrit Petersen

    This is all very nice, but if the cash-strapped, debt-ridden T can spend $15M for an ‘add-on’ such as this, why isn’t it investing in more fundamental improvements, like automating the antiquated relay signal system on the Green Line–the greatest cause of most back-ups–and installing pass readers at all car doors, which it promised eons ago when the Charlie Card was introduced.