Low-Friction MBTA Predictions

June 28th, 2022
transit
This has not been a good week for the MBTA:
  • The Red, Orange, and Blue lines are running Saturday schedules on weekdays (news coverage) until they are able to hire and train more dispatchers.

  • The Orange and Green lines (again) were suspended after problems with the ongoing demolition of a parking garage above Haymarket Station.

  • The new Orange and Red Line cars were pulled from service (again), this time for a battery issue.

  • And, bonus, while the event was at the end of May, the MBTA released information this week about Red Line cars that rolled out of the Braintree yard, onto the mainline tracks and through the station.

Despite all of this, my wait times have gone down by >2x:

What's changed is that I've stopped thinking of the Red Line as being so frequent that you just show up and get on. Now I look at the real-time predictions and time my arrival for when the train is about a minute away. This is a combination of doing extra things before leaving to usefully fill the time (typically tidying) and/or running to the station for a train I would otherwise miss. While I used to wait ~3min on average, now I'm waiting ~1min.

A key thing here is to have an app that is really easy to check, so you don't waste time checking that you could have spent getting to the station. There are many different apps that display the MBTA data, but I've been using MBTA Tracker. I have two shortcuts on my home screen for the two ends of my commute:

Tapping immediately opens predictions:

To put them on the homescreen I starred these stops in the app to mark them as favorites, and then long-pressed the app icon. This popped up a menu where I could drag the stops to the homescreen:

I do miss having my own predictions services, which used to be something I cared about a lot, but at this point other people have released some pretty good ones and I don't feel like I'd be adding much.

Comment via: facebook, lesswrong

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