Local Brown Line Rider Builds A Better Train Tracking App

By Mike Fourcher | Monday, November 7, 2011

Quick Train in action. Promotional photo.

About a year ago Jake Van Order was commuting to the South Loop. He lived equidistant from the Damen Brown Line stop and the Ravenswood Metra stop and was trying figure out which route was faster and when to expect the next train. Most commuters would just throw their hands up and pick a route. But Van Order, a programmer, was determined to figure out when he could expect the Brown Line to arrive.

“Morning by morning I added a little bit of code each day,” Van Order says. Until finally, after a few months of commuting 90 minutes each day, he had an iPhone app, Quick Train, that uses GPS to show exactly when trains are scheduled to arrive at the nearest El stop.

The magic of the 99-cent app is its simplicity and attractiveness. You turn it on and then, voila!

“I thought I could make it as quick as possible and easier,” than similar apps, says Van Order. “If you make it a location-enabled device, you shouldn’t have to click it other than to just open it.”

After seeing something so useful for trains, you might greedily wonder, what about buses?

“Buses are a whole other thing,” says Van Order. “I think that Buster Bus Boy app that’s out does a pretty good job. Buses are pretty hard because there are tons and tons of stops in an area. The GPS is accurate, but not that accurate.”

This is Van Order’s second iPhone app for his personal company, Sushi Grass, which is just a side job to his real gig, creating iOS applications for a downtown financial software company. Before becoming an iOS programmer, Van Order was a graphic designer for four years, that’s why his stuff looks so good.

So, what’s his next side project going to be?

“I have some ideas rolling around. I’m working with CTA to find out if they’re opening up more data,” says Van Order. “I thought I’d use train tracker more often. Hopefully I’ll be able show when a train is coming to you, as well as when it’ll arrive at what time.”

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  • Anonymous

    Good Work !

  • mike hicks

    So it’s the same, except location enabled to filter your results accordingly? I like that feature, but have had absolutely horrible luck getting the train tracker timings to be accurate (particuarly for the Purple Line, waiting at Quincy). I know this is the fault of the CTA, and hopefully they will remedy it. Right now, the train tracker is more frustrating than useful. I like the bus tracker though. It’s considerably better.

  • Anonymous

    Google Maps figures the quickest route using all modes of public transit for free.

  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    Transit Genie also does this but already includes real-time train arrival times. It’s free.

    Quick Train is a very nice looking app. You can’t say that about a lot of the CTA transit trackers. 

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