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First Capacity App for Rail Travelers in North America to Help Social Distancing

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Phil Eng has unveiled a totally revamped TrainTime app today, highlighted by a new function that will allow customers to track in real time where seats are available on any train in the electric fleet, which represents more than 90% of all LIRR train cars. It is the first time that a railroad in North America has offered such a feature, which will prove especially helpful to customers navigating their return to LIRR in the wake of COVID-19.  The app is translated to both Chinese and Spanish.

LIRR customers can utilize this seat tracking functionality to determine the number of seats available in each car at any given moment so that they can make informed decisions based on the real-time data of how many customers are on each train car.

Customers that already have TrainTime installed, approximately 70,000 riders, will receive an automatic update so that they can use the new features. The revamped app is also available through the App Store and Google Play Store for immediate download and use.

An additional feature on the app provides customers with the ability to track the real-time location of their train in much the same way someone taking an Uber ride. Customers can share this location information with friends or family so that they can pick them up. The app also provides customers with push notifications for track assignments at Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Jamaica Station allowing riders to spread out throughout the station complexes rather than standing in immediate proximity to departure boards. 

“The new app updates are incredibly intuitive and focused on the needs of our customers during these challenging times,” said LIRR President Phil Eng. “This once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has changed the ways we live, work, and commute. It’s our responsibility as a railroad to rise to this occasion and this app is evidence of how we’re thinking outside-the-box to do just that.”

“By providing customers with real-time capacity information and service updates, we’re providing the tools necessary for navigating some of the uncertainties of mass transit in this difficult moment,” said LIRR Chief Innovation Officer Will Fisher. “We look forward to rolling out additional features in the weeks and months to come and are eager to hear from our customers about how we can improve the app further.”

On M7 trains, the real-time seat tracking function works by measuring the payload of each car’s suspension system. LIRR modified the software on the car to transmit this weight value to a central server, from which a nearly precise estimate of how many customers are on board can be derived.  On M9 train cars, the doorways on each car are equipped with infrared sensors that counts the number of times a person walks in or out of the door. 

The app’s new features were built entirely in-house by LIRR developers and staff with an intimate understanding of the system. The team designed numerous bespoke solutions tailored specifically to LIRR.

Read more at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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