Mar 03 2008

And now for something completely different

Tag: RandomDino @ 21:57

I know that this has absolutely nothing to do with Arabic, but maybe it’s a quality of life improvement.

Last night I was getting kinda pissy after four straight weeks of major red line delays. There are few things that piss me off more than waiting 20 minutes for the next train to carry me back from Virginia. Sure, metro has a system that works if you have internet on your phone, but what about the 95% of us that only have text messaging? Some people had already made an SMS solution, but despite sending a bunch of emails to it I never got so much as a pip back from the services. I think it must have been based on the NextBus system that went bye-bye. Anyway, I stayed up late on Sunday and hacked together a solution that works for me and thought I’d share it.

My solution

All you have to do is send a text message to metro@sixpica.com that has the station name in the body and it’ll message you back the next trains coming and their arrival times. You don’t even have to put the whole thing in, it recognizes “va sq” as “Virginia Square-GMU” and “china” as “Gallery Pl-Chinatown. Of course, it works best if you put in the first word or two of the station name, but play around with it and let me know if it does something funny.

You can also put what line you want to get on and it’ll give you only those results for the stations. Just use the two-letter code Metro uses (RD, YL, BL, GR, OR) before the station name. If you choose lines that share tracks (green and yellow, orange and blue) it’ll give you results for both, so in town trips come back in one query [ex: “gn chinatown” would get you both yellow and green lines in both directions].

Anyway, try it out and see if it’s useful. I put the time it checked the Metro system in the message, so you can compare it to when it actually gets sent back. It sometimes takes as long as two minutes to bounce back. I’m looking into whether I can hack something like the trip planner together or at least the bus schedules. I’ll keep you posted.

Update: Ok, so TrainChecker.com does work (and I added a link to them above). I like the way they format the times and might switch to that, but I tried to do some alternate spellings and they didn’t work at all. “Chinatown” and “va sq” both returned errors. The have a three-letter code to memorize for each station, but I can’t be bothered.