He Makes Your Train Tweet

Software engineer feeds Metra service alerts to Twitter

A 34-year-old software engineer's project-of-curiosity has beat Metra to the punch in creating a service that will likely end up saving commuters time and frustration.

Tony Zale, a Google employee and Metra commuter, developed Twitter feeds for each of Metra's routes, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

Metra provides advisories on its Web site, but Zale said commuters often have no time to sit down at their home computers before their commute.

Zale uses software to scrape the information from Metra's site and rebroadcasts it on Twitter.  Twitter users can then follow a feed and have service alerts delivered instantly to their mobile phones.

Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said the agency plans to award a contract for a train tracker service this year.  That service is part of a redesign and relaunch of MetraRail.com.  Four companies are in the last stage of the bidding process for that project, Pardonnet said. 

Currently, Pardonnet explained, a human must communicate with trains and manually put the service alerts on Metra's Web site.  Once the new service is launched, a Global Positioning System on each train will automatically feed location data to the Web and to subscribers of the train tracker service.

Pardonnet said the cost of the project is already included in the agency's budget.

Now, can the CTA get on board with a similar service?  One can only hope.

Keep up with all delays by following @metradelays , or just monitor your own line with: 
Union Pacific North: @metraUPN
Union Pacific Northwest: @metraUPNW
Union Pacific West: @metraUPW
Milwaukee District North: @metramdn
Milwaukee District West: @metraMDW
North Central: @metranc
Burlington Northern SF: @metrabnsf
Heritage Corridor: @metraHC
Rock Island District: @metrari
Southwest Line: @metrasw
Electric Line: @metrae

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