PTIS (GPS Tracking) On The Commuter Rail Discussion

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PTIS (GPS Tracking) On The Commuter Rail Discussion

Postby jbvb » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:52 am

A couple of weeks ago I was going home on #227 and encountered what I guess was a test run of a GPS-based automatic station announcement gadget. The announcements were loud and clear but not well programmed: 227 skips Wyoming and Greenwood, but it announced them as flag stops. 227 makes unconditional stops at Cedar Park and North Wilmington, but they were also announced as flag stops. In several cases, the train crew either corrected after the fact, or made their own announcement over the robot. In it's final act, the pronunciation of Haverhill demonstrated that nobody involved was from Massachusetts. I "wrote to the top", and got a response that didn't address my comments. I haven't encountered the system again, has anyone else?
Last edited by jbvb on Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GPS auto announcements on Commuter Rail

Postby AEM7AC920 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:45 am

This is actually nothing new, I believe 1 or 2 of the trainsets have this installed to test for future auto announcements. It only has the haverhill line (northside) programmed and quite a few routes on the southside as well. It is set up by train number so if the correct train number wasn't put in than it probably didn't work as it should. I believe there is a topic on this already try doing a search.
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Re: GPS auto announcements on Commuter Rail

Postby sery2831 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:27 am

These units are being installed in the control cars. There are quite a few installed at the moment. Up until this week the only North Side train programed into the unit was Train #223. So anytime you headed to Haverhill it announces the stops as that train would make them. Missing Greenwood every time. Last night I got a unit that had Newburyport, Lowell, and Fitchburg programed into it. This one had a different voice too. These units are very much in testing and I believe should be done sometime this fall.

I know there is a thread about this with a new story about the project. But I do not have time to locate it at the moment.
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Re: GPS Technologoy on the T

Postby sery2831 » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:30 pm

Since I cannot seem to locate the thread I am thinking of... Could be mixed into another thread or I am just dreaming all this! Anyways...

Today it looks like they plan to take these GPS units on the train live to the web soon.

From Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaki ... n_iph.html
Coming soon: iPhone app for the MBTA?
August 17, 2009 01:57 PM

By Globe Staff

Describing it as "an historic step toward openness and transparency," the state Executive Office of Transportation announced today that the MBTA released detailed scheduling and geographic data for the Google Transit Trip Planner.

The plain English translation: Information about the MBTA's bus, rail, and ferry routes may soon be available on iPhones and BlackBerrys. The release of the data will allow computer programmers to create applications for phones and other mobile devices specifically geared for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

"The power of this is giving information and data to outside developers to create mobile applications … and/or web-based tools," said Colin Durrant, deputy secretary for communications and policy for the state department of transportation, in an e-mail. "By 'democratizing this data' (a term I like to use) we're allowing people to create tools that T riders and residents will find helpful -- we're allowing the user to create the tool themselves."

Other large transit systems such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Portland have taken similar steps and allowed developers to create applications for mobile phones at no cost to the transportation agencies, according to a release from the state department of transportation. The transit data in Massachusetts will also include an information feed for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Lexpress, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, Metrowest Regional Transit Authority, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, and Vineyard Transit.

The full press release follows below:

Boston, MA -- The Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) today announced an historic step toward openness and transparency by releasing to the public the detailed scheduling and geographic data the MBTA submitted for use in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The initiative is part of the Patrick Administration’s commitment to comprehensive transportation reform and creating a modern, efficient, and customer-friendly transportation system.

The MBTA becomes the 3rd largestt ransit agency in the U.S. to make this data public in a format that is converted into the industry-standard Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) using existing scheduling software. The data includes full schedules and geographic information for all MBTA bus, rail, and ferry routes, along with several Regional Transit Authorities. Similar efforts in other areas, such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Portland, have allowed third-party developers to create useful applications and scheduling tools for riders at no cost to the city, agency, or state, vastly improving customer service.

Secretary James A. Aloisi, Jr. praised MBTA's Operations and Service Development team and EOT partners for making possible the scheduling data availability.

"Our priority is to consistently improve customer service for the riders who rely on the T and RTAs everyday to get to their job or their doctor’s appointment on time," said Transportation Secretary Aloisi. "With the help of thoughtful technical developers, making this data public will spawn many possible applications to help transit users use their cell phones or laptops to find and use the right bus or train in the right place at the right time for them."

The data will be located on the EOT Developers’ Page (http://www.mass.gov/eot/developers), which is the one-stop place to open up to the public useful transportation data across the state. The page will now include nine sets of GTFS data from transit authorities, making Massachusetts a global leader in embracing this open standard for transit data.

Information on the page includes GTFS data for the MBTA, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Lexpress, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, Metrowest Regional Transit Authority, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Vineyard Transit, and ferry services.

Already, a well-known application called UniBus is utilizing this data for all agencies, creating an easy-to-use statewide transit scheduler for the iPhone.

Other developers have expressed interest in the data and expect to release applications in the coming months. EOT has reached out to these developers, holding a developers’ meeting and engaging the community through Twitter and Google Groups, and hopes to expand its data and incorporate more information in real-time.

The EOT Developers’ Page can be viewed at:

http://www.mass.gov/eot/developers

For the latest information about Massachusetts transportation, visit our blog at
http://www.mass.gov/blog/transportation or follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/mass_trans.
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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby jbvb » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:52 pm

This morning #162 (Nbpt. inbound) held short of the grade crossing for a signal at Beverly Jct. As the brakes released and we started to move, a recording said (approximately) "please remain seated until the bus comes to a stop", to the great astonishment of the commuters.
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Working ASA on Commuter Rail (??)

Postby StefanW » Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:52 pm

On the way in on CR train #176 today I'm in car 228 and I heard an automated station announcement (ASA). I asked the conductor and he said "it's great when it works". It's not a new car, so it must be a retro-fit.

Anyone have news on how widespread it is now, and if it's just a trial (again) ?


-- Stefan
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Re: NOT-Working ASA on Commuter Rail

Postby StefanW » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:03 pm

That's got to be a first... Two minutes after posting the topic & question, I got off the ASA train at North Station and there's the guru himself John (sery2831) on the same platform about to head out on the 4PM South Acton. (Obviously John's super-moderator-ESP works perfectly... unlike the CR ASA so far.) :-)

He told me that the ASA is part of the Big Brother train position tracking / GPS / monitoring system, and it's NOT working well - if at all. Apparently these things are being installed in control cars, wired into everything like spin/slide controls and the throttle position but hardly anyone - if anyone at all - is being trained on how to use them. He said if the thing is set to Haverhill, it's going to announce for a Haverhill trip as soon as it goes over the bridge at North Station... regardless of whether the train is actually going to Haverhill or not!

Hopefully somebody from MBCR will get the things working ASAP, and train people accordingly, because we don't need another black eye from sloppily-deployed technology.

On the bright side however, John said the timetable for getting them installed is Fall - which might mean we actually soon see the fabled "next-train-arriving-in-X-minutes" signs at stations and on the website. Here's hoping!
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Re: Working ASA on Commuter Rail - and data collection?

Postby StefanW » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:18 pm

Hey John, (or any other MBCR employee) could you please post whatever you can read on the ASA / GPS / train-tracking equipment in the closets?
I would love to Google the manufacturer and model, to see what these things are supposed to be able to do.

It just occurred to me that there could be a "green" benefit to the Big Brother aspect of train tracking & recording. If the equipment can record train aspects like speed, throttle notch and spin/slide then the BET maintenance crews might be able to find out which locomotives & trainsets are operating less efficiently and target them for earlier maintenance. Sort of like smart cars... More monitoring = more data = more awareness of efficiency = more targeted maintenance = less fuel burned = better for the environment.

Also... if MBCR knew where along a route there was spin/slide happening, maybe they could send out the washer train only when & where it was needed... instead of washing the rails in broad areas like I think happens now.
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Re: Working ASA on Commuter Rail (??)

Postby AEM7AC920 » Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:30 pm

I must say I had it on a set going out to fitchburg over the weekend and once i had it fixed to the route it worked well making the announcements besides the fact that they all didn't play inside the car but in the vestubile!!
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Re: Working ASA on Commuter Rail - and data collection?

Postby sery2831 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:26 pm

StefanW wrote:Hey John, (or any other MBCR employee) could you please post whatever you can read on the ASA / GPS / train-tracking equipment in the closets?
I would love to Google the manufacturer and model, to see what these things are supposed to be able to do.


Here is a pic of the info you requested: http://sery2831.smugmug.com/Trains/MBTA ... Cn2bQ-L-LB

I took a few photos a while back when the first one was installed, which are also with that photo.
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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby danib62 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:42 pm

Why are we reinventing the wheel? Why don't we use the ASA system they use on Metro North the LIRR or NJTransit?
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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby sery2831 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:23 am

I am not sure what other systems have but this system seems to have some nice advantages. It will be able to give live information to update signs at the stations and be tracked on Google maps.

Here is a list of cars I have run into that has them installed. I am going to put the car number and what I am going to call a software version.
V1: is the original install and for the North Side it only has Haverhill Train #223 programmed into it.
V2: has some Fitchburg, Lowell, and Newburyport trains programmed plus Haverhill Train #202.
V3: has every line and some of the wording has been changed and I think it knows where Greenwood is now!
V1 has a different voice than V2 and V3.

The list(I will update this as I find more cars):
1501:V?
1508:V?
1512:V1
1517:V3
1625:V3
1627:V3
1629:V3
1631: unit missing! <---I think this was the first one along with car 1531
1635:V1
1636:V1
1641:V1
1645:V1
1652:V3
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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby jbvb » Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:20 pm

Yesterday #227 had an ASA system; it either didn't have #227's schedule or wasn't set to the right train - Announced a stop at Wyoming, announced North Wilmington as a flag stop etc. The crew corrected on the PA. Its pronunciation of Haverhill was "from away", but not as bad as the first one I heard. Didn't have a chance to note the control car number.
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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby lkitch » Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:51 pm

Well, if the Red Line auto-announce-system is any indication, the station announcements are often--very often--incorrect, announcing a stop that was two stops back. The train operators either don't know how or don't care to re-sych Otto-announce. And the Platform-Otto-announce at Charles often announces that "Braintree Train is Arriving" after it leaves, for instance, just as the next Ashmont train is arriving. Give a listen sometime...Out of Synch!

As far as the CR Platform RedLED Signs, we can't trust them now, how can we trust them about the "x minutes to next train"?
Yesterday in Lynn the morning inbounds were running 25 min late, 1 hr late, and cancelled (according to Alerts) but the Sign Said "All trains are operating on or near schedule." And often the sign says "all...on or near schedule" and in the next sentence says Train XXX is 25 minutes late," then repeats the sequence... With the GPS arrival info, hopefully it can override the ineptitude of whatever MBCR staff person is--or isn't--updating the signage.

The T in general has major communication problems...including MBCR. Continually frustrating.

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Re: GPS Technology on the T

Postby Lord Mkaiba » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:34 pm

Train 279 had ASA this afternoon, but it incorrectly announced Wyoming Hill and Melrose Cedar Park as being flag stops. Control car number was 1627.
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