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New York MTA launches subway app with real-time train arrival info (for some lines)

New Yorkers can now plan their subway journeys in a way that’ll allow them to minimize the amount of time they spend on the platform, so on a sweltering hot summer day they’ll be able to make their way from air-conditioned coffee shop to air-conditioned subway car without breaking a sweat – in theory, at least.

It’s been made possible by the Mass Transit Authority’s launch of its new (beta) Subway Time app for iOS devices that enables users to see the minute-by-minute arrival times of trains before heading into the subterranean depths of the sprawling network.

MTA chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota spoke of the new app in somewhat grandiose terms, despite the fact that it currently only covers lines 1 through 6 (as well as the S 42nd Street Shuttle) – that means information is only available for 156 of the network’s 468 stations.

“Today is the day that generations of dreamers and futurists have waited for. The ability to get subway arrival time at street level is here.” Lhota said in a release 0ver the weekend.

He continued, “The days of rushing to a subway station only to find yourself waiting motionless in a state of uncertainty are coming to an end. Now, you can know from the comfort of your home or office whether to hasten to the station, or grab a cup of coffee as part of a leisurely walk.”

The MTA said it is providing a free live stream of all arrival-time data to third-party developers “who can develop innovative ways of using that information to better serve customers on a variety of devices,” so expect an Android version before too long.

In fact, looking at its clunky interface (it’s not even optimized for the iPhone 5’s display so has black bars top and bottom) and lack of station coverage, it’s pretty obvious the MTA just wanted to launch something, anything, to get the word out about the free live stream data, encouraging other developers to put in the graft and come up with something altogether more pleasing to use.

2.5 stars

At the time of writing, the app has an average 2.5-star rating in the app store. “Come on guys, hire some talent and get it right first time,” writes one user in the review section.

“Laughable. Worst app design/usability experience you’ll probably ever see,” says another.

Among the mostly one- and two-star reviews, there were a few users looking at the offering a little more positively. “This app has a ton of potential,” said one reviewer who gave it a generous five stars. “Very good introductory release. Also nice to see the MTA working on something innovative.”

Used Subway Time? What do you make of it?