"The next train is five minutes behind us..."

Anyone who rides the MBTA Commuter Rail in and out of Boston has heard this. Probably multiple times. But is that train really five minutes away?

And when you show up to the station on a cold February morning, look around and see way more people than there should be, do you think "Hey, where is my train?"

Trainspotter is a commuter rail rider's view of the MBTA. Select your train line, and view real-time updates of train locations and lateness information from the MBTA. Trains are displayed on a map of the system with pin colors indicating lateness. Access a list of current trains on your line to view their ETA to next stop.

While we're all hoping the commuter rail will run better than it did in the Winter of 2015, Trainspotter is your commuter rail companion to help see what trains are where.

Important Disclaimer
The data presented in the application is retrieved directly from the MBTA and, according to the MBTA, "is not perfect". Some trips are not tracked some of the time; under certain condition a trip can be listed twice; vehicles’ lateness sometimes fluctuates from one minute to the next; and there may be times when the feed is unavailable. Customers should be advised to use all deliberate caution when using this data, and to do so at their own risk. It’s one thing to miss a Red Line train and have to wait five minutes for the next one, but it’s quite another to miss a Commuter Rail train when the next one might not be coming for over an hour.

For questions or comments about the Trainspotter iOS app, please email app@trainspotter-app.com

Train Pins
Arrow indicates direction of travel, color indicates lateness.
Green: This train is running on time or less than 5 minutes late.
"Close enough."
Orange: More than 5 minutes late, but less than 30 minutes late.
"Could be worse."
Red: This train is more than 30 minutes late, but less than an hour late.
"Bad way to start/end the day."
Black: More than an hour late.
"Yeah, you're screwed."
Gray: This is a train with unconfirmed lateness information.
Train List
This train has location information, and can be found on the map.
No location information for this train.

Where do you get the train information?

The MBTA provides a "real-time" feed which provides reasonably up-to-date information. However, the future plan is to augment the app with information provided by actual riders on the trains. We're all in this together.

Does that mean Trainspotter is affiliated with MBTA?

NO! I am not in any way affiliated with the MBTA, just a regular commuter like everyone else, just a regular developer who wanted to do something useful with information provided by MBTA.

What about support for Android?

There are a bunch of things I want to add to the iPhone app, so no Android app is planned currently. But everything that feeds the data to the iPhone app could support an Android app as well, so it's not completely off the table. Are you an Android developer? Want to partner? Let me know!

Why isn't Trainspotter free?

Mainly because I'm not independently wealthy and there are costs to develop and support this application. I also don't want to insert advertisements to support the app. So I've decided to charge a small fee for the app, it's only about 10% of the cost of a single one-way Zone 6 ticket.

Without the involvement of the following people, this app would not exist, I appreciate their support and input:

  • My morning train posse on #817: Thanks to Sheryl Reilly, Eric, Joyce, and Jay for your encouragement and enthusiasm for the app
  • My evening train posse on #842: Thanks to Paulette, Maureen, Raquel and Kathy for suggestions and interest in the app
  • The monthly iOS Developers Meetup at Thoughtbot: Particularly Cliff, who encouraged and helped me with some development challenges
  • Malek: For his great tutorials at sweettutos.com and assistance that helped me along the way
  • Mauricio: For input on features
  • My wife Heather and son Benjamin: For putting up with the time I spend on this crazy idea!