If you’re hoping to ride to work or home on the gleaming new Orange Line train cars slated to hit the tracks Wednesday, Preston Mueller has got you covered.
The 23-year-old software engineer has built a simple website, called “Where are Boston’s new trains today?,” that allows riders to track the real-time location of the new train, as it rolls through the transit system.
“It’s for someone who really wants to get out there and check them out and not wait around” with their fingers crossed, hoping they’ll get lucky, Mueller said in a telephone interview. “When they’re so rare to find, it’s to be able to find them quickly.”
During a meeting Monday with the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak announced that a set of six new Orange Line train cars would enter passenger service by midday Wednesday, with more to follow “in succession.”
Eventually, the MBTA plans to replace the existing Orange Line fleet of trains with 152 new cars in the coming years.
But since there’s only one set of cars going into service for the time being, the chances of catching a ride on the shiny, stainless-steel vehicles could be hit-or-miss. That’s where Mueller’s website comes in.
Mueller said the concept of the site, which is powered by the MBTA’s public API, is as simple as the name itself. All people have to do is go to the landing page — newtrains.today — and wait for it to refresh in order to find out the direction and destination of the train.
The website also tells people when the last time the new train was seen on the line, and how many of the older trains are running on the line.
The website is already tracking the newly deployed Green Line trolleys. The Orange Line train will be added this week, and, eventually, passengers will be able to track the whereabouts of the new Red Line trains the MBTA plans to roll out.
“There’s no interface and nothing to click and nothing to press,” he said. “It was a small mini-project that I worked on last year, and have been using ever since.”
Mueller said he credits the MBTA for making the real-time train data available to the public, so people like him can create these types of projects.
“If people knew how fantastic it is to get data from them, they would appreciate the MBTA more, probably,” he said.
Mueller said he’s also working with the non-profit group TransitMatters to create a more visual train-tracker for all the newer models, a project people can likely expect to see in the near future.
In all, Mueller admits there’s really no commuter benefit to the project — it’s more about giving people a chance to try out the new trains and see what they think.
“You can sort of turn it into a game in a sense, that if you want to train-spot you can use this site,” he said. “It’s really a tool to just have fun out there.”