Mobile Train Schedule (mobiletrainschedule.com) is an interactive schedule for New York City’s three major commuter rail lines; The Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and Metro-North. This isn’t an official site, it seems to be an ad supported service from Actuan Mobile. The main feature is “Point to Point Train Times“, a simple schedule lookup (top image), where you pick the start and end stations from dropdowns, choose the time of departure and day of the week and get a list of the next four trains between the two stations. Or you can choose “Now” from the Day of the week dropdown to list trains departing immediately. Another page offers complete timetables listing all stops and times for any train by train number (bottom image).
This could be a handy site for NYC commuters. Usability could be better though. One thing that’s confusing is that when “Now” is selected in the the Day dropdown the time controls are ignored. For the time to be recognized, the Day must be set to “Today“, “Tomorrow“, “Weekday‘ Or “Weekend“. As “Now” is the default, I found this confusing and didn’t understand why changing the time was ignored. It’s not really logical for “Now” to be a choice for the prompt “Please Select a Travel Day” (2nd Image). Another thing that could be improved is if the train numbers in the schedule lookup linked to the detailed schedule of stops for that train rather then requiring the user to go back several pages to enter the train number and get the details of that trip. Also the mobiletrainschedule.com URL didn’t work on one of my phones, a Motorola i855. If you get an error or a non mobile page try using www.actuanmobile.com/trainscheduleserver/mainhomepage.jsp which is what the first URL redirects to and works on the i855.
Mobile Train Schedule is also available as a Java App for the New Jersey Transit lines which which has a similar design to the web version but with more features and better usability. With the app you can set up two preferred stations and then get a list of the next four trains between those stations with a single click. There’s also a message on the Point to Point screen warning the user not enter a time if choosing Now. And the train numbers in results link to the detailed schedule for that train. The Java app is much better than the mobile web one, I recommend using it if you can. The app’s superiority isn’t due to any inherent feature of Java though. All the features and usability improvements of the Java program are possible in a web based application.
It’s not easy to find the Java application either. Supposedly it should be available at mobiletrainschedule.com. But of three different phones I tried only one, a Nokia N95, displayed the download link. The other two, a Motorola Z8 and the i855, both support Java MIDP 2 and would probably work too if I could find a way to get the file. I suspect Actuan is hiding the link from untested phones. A better approach would be to do what Opera and many other sites do and show a disclaimer that “This might not work on your phone, click here to try it anyway.” Also some phones, including all Nextel devices, can’t install apps OTA from 3rd party sites but do support sideloading. Again for widest adoption, Actuan should offer the .jad and .jar files on their PC web site for download to a PC and sideloading to the phone.
If someone has a copy of the MobileTrainSchedule application, let me know I’ll be happy to make it available on the WapReview Download page.
Transit schedules and trip planners are a type of service that has great potential for mobile. Are you using one? It you are please take a minute to leave a comment and let us know how it works.
Update 11-Apr-2009: Yuri at trainlogic.net pointed out that the schedules on the Mobile Train Schedule site and Java app are not current. I checked and there have been significant changes. I would advise against using Mobile Train Schedule for actual travel planning. Trainlogic has a nice Java based app that covers the New York City commuter rail lines has current schedules although it is not free.
Mobile Link: mobiletrainschedule.com
Ratings: Content: Usability:
I am using a similar mobile app available from http://www.trainlogic.net. It has all three NYC railroads (NJT, LIRR and MetroNorth) and much more: PATH, NJT Light Rail schedules, SEPTA, Chicago Metra, many more and even some ferry schedules around New York City. You should try it. It has several advantages over the Actuan’s app (which I tried awhile ago only to find that their schedules are outdated):
-all schedules are up to date
-works with all train lines as if they are one network (I don’t know any other app which finds best times from Phila to New York with two train changes)
-does not require one to have an internet connection all the time. Once you downloaded a schedule it’s available at any point, anywhere.
Thanks for the suggestions Ben. The New Jersey Transit site you mention is already listed in the Transit section of the WapReview Mobile Site Directory..
I’ll take a look at the others and add them to the directory and blog about them soon.
One thing I did notice about the New Jersey Transit site is that it doesn’t work very well with the OpenWave and Motorola browsers found on mainstream phones. I just tried it on a Motorola i850 (OpenWave V7 browser) and the browser was only able to load the first third of the page before failing with an “Insufficient memory for this operation” error. For all it’s faults the Mobile Train schedule site does at least work on just about any phone.
Actually, not only does the MTA, MetroNorth, LIRR have a mobile view of their site automatically for all phones, so does New Jersey Transit. Usablenet makes these sites and you can find a bunch of their work at http://www.usablenet.mobi/mt/portal/index.html
This site is not really much a of a value adder. The MTA already has an awesome mobile web site. You just go to mta.info on your phone and you will be automatically detected as a mobile user and redirected to a mobile view of the whole site. Really easy to use too. Even has an iPhone layer.