Metlink is going mobile!
UPDATE (31/12/2008): It seems like Metlink has broken this trick, so this won't work anymore. There is however, a neat site out there called iTransit that does something similar. It does favour the iPhone, but that's the only option I can think of at the moment.
I never thought this day would come, and it still isn't really here yet, but it's a promising start. I stumbled on to it while trying out their new 'beta' timetables (which are horribly broken in Firefox 3), so I assume it will be improved and officially announced soon.
It works a lot better than trying to use their main 'for desktops' website on a phone, even on the iPhone. Rather than giving you the full timetable, it gives you the next 8 or so departures from that stop. That's generally all you want to know when you're out and about (although it means you can't plan ahead, e.g. work out when the last train is until it is too late). You can even choose to get the departure time, or in 'countdown' form, i.e. departing in 5 minutes.
It is basically similar to the SMS services available from Yarra Trams and Connex Melbourne. Those existing services are in fact much more powerful than Metlink mobile. However, there is no such service on any of the bus lines, so it is new for them.
Accessing Metlink timetable information on your mobile
- Open up your mobile's web browser. Of course, make sure you are connected to the internet blah blah.
- Navigate to - http://tt.metlinkmelbourne.com.au
- Here's where it gets tricky. It obviously is a prototype at the moment, so it asks you for the 'Stop ID'. See below for instructions on how to find out the Stop ID of your stop. For now, let's try a bus stop (9663 - Chadstone/Warrigal Rd/Holmesglen TAFE), a tram stop (18194 - Southern Cross/Spencer St), and a train station (19854 - Flinders St Station). Enter one of those Stop IDs into the Stop ID box.
- Select whether you want 'Monitor' or 'Countdown'. 'Monitor' means that it returns the time of the next few services departing from that stop. 'Countdown' means it returns the number of minutes until the service departs from that stop. The examples below will explain the difference.
- Click Submit.
And that's it! There's not much more information available yet (e.g. no platform numbers for trains); although I presume they're working on it. Here are some sample results from the service (the tram example is using the countdown mode; all others are in monitor mode):
Discovering the Stop ID of your stop
Direct method - use this method if you know the name of your stop (generally its location)
- On your computer, open your browser and navigate to http://www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/maps_stations_stops/station_stop_information
- Select which mode of transport you want to get on at that stop. Note - if that stop services more than one mode of transport (e.g. Flinders St Station has both trams and trains), it will have multiple Stop IDs, one for each mode of transport.
- Using the dropdown boxes in the 'Stop Search' section, find your stop.
- Now under the new 'Stop Profiles' section, you should see your stop. Click on the link.
- Now either,
- look at the URL of the current page - the Stop ID is the number at the end of the URL, e.g.
- or, look at the new 'Services from this Station' section (this is part of the new Beta timetable project) - the Stop ID is displayed at the top-right of that box, e.g.
Via the route method - use this method if you don't know the name of your stop, but know the route that services it.
- Find the timetable page for the route that services the desired stop, e.g. http://www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/index.php/route/view/956. The beta timetable pages work fine as well.
- Click on the desired stop to go to the Stop Profile.
- Follow step 5 in the direct method above.
For the lazy people, here are the Stop IDs for City Loop train stations:
- Southern Cross (Spencer St was a much better name) - 22180
- Flagstaff - 19841
- Melbourne Central - 19842
- Parliament - 19843
- Flinders St - 19854
Where to from here?
At least Metlink is finally listening to their frequent customers and fixing their website and mobile access. The Metlink website is great for occasional use, but absolutely sucks for frequent travellers (I think I can subconsciously type in my stops into Journey Planner now that I've done it so many times). So among other things, can we have RSS feeds soon, please? Timetables and service updates are perfect candidates for feeds.Your view engine seems to be based on XML and XSLT anyway, so it won't be that hard to apply an XSLT to produce RSS.
Oh, and the URLs for the new beta timetables are ridiculous. There has to be a better way of doing things. And My Way seems to be dead, not that it was ever very useful anyway. And please fix journey planner too - it sometimes produces incorrect times.
And I hope you intend to have platform numbers, stop information, journey planner and service updates on the mobile as well.
I could go on, but I think that's enough for now