LIRR testing myLIRR “real-time train finder”

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Stop looking at your watch and access your smartphone! LIRR’s "Dashing Commuter,” also known as “Dashing Dan,” now has another customer-service-based application to ease the stress of traveling on the busiest commuter railroad in North America.

MTA Long Island Rail Road on Feb. 6 launched a beta test of myLIRR, an online tool designed for mobile devices that allows customers to see real-time train position. It also shows information about train lengths and locations of any trouble spots affecting service. The map is refreshed with new data every three to five seconds and “benefits from the enhanced accuracy of GPS data.”

“To use the tool, customers can go to any web browser and navigate to mylirr.org,” as the LIRR described the app. “The first thing displayed is a list of LIRR stations with a customer’s selected favorite stations displayed at the top. Tapping on a station gives a list of upcoming trains, organized by scheduled arrival time for the eastbound and westbound directions. Tapping on any listed train pulls up a map that shows that train’s location within the LIRR systemwide map, which is overlaid on a geographically accurate map showing streets, parks, bodies of water, and more, all in a muted fashion that allows train service to be highlighted. As the train moves, the icon representing the train on the map moves as well.

“To help customers be prepared if a train has fewer cars than normal, the tool also lists [train length]. Zooming in on a train displays this information graphically, by showing an outline of the train, with each of the cars in the train appearing on the map. Instances where ongoing track work is reducing the number of available tracks are shown on the map with a wrench icon, and unplanned events that can delay trains, such a switch or signal problem, broken rail, track condition or disabled train are shown with an exclamation point icon.”

To enable myLIRR to function, the railroad has installed GPS transponders on all trains, nearly 600 GPS units in total. The GPS data supplements information from the LIRR’s signal system to provide the tool with accurate real-time positions of trains. Areas in tunnels where GPS is unavailable use signal system data and station stops and intermediate waypoint beacons to identify train locations.

The new tool supplements existing real-time offerings including email and text messages service alerts available at MyMTAAlerts.com, MYmta, and the LIRR Train Time app. “The myLIRR tool is in beta, and the LIRR plans to amend and improve it based on customer feedback,” the railroad noted. “The LIRR asks that anyone who has suggestions for improvement to email [email protected].”

“We’ve heard many times from customers that they want better information about when their train will arrive,” LIRR President Phillip Eng Eng said. “This tool is designed to be the gold standard level of information and should remove any doubt about where upcoming trains are and how many cars they have, and to provide a visual sense of how fast the trains are traveling. The myLIRR tool is an important component of our efforts to improve customer communications as part of the LIRR Forward plan.”

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