Metra has launched an upgraded website that includes a comprehensive schedule display, a new geographic train tracker and a new layout to help customers find the information they need quickly and easily. It also uses a new responsive design that scales web content to desktop, mobile and tablet formats.
“Our goal was to create a customer-friendly website that presents information in a logical and intuitive way,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We hope these changes will make using our website – and using our train service – an even more satisfying experience.”
Because most customers using metrarail.com are searching for schedule and train tracker information, the search box for that information is the most prominent component of the new homepage. But four large tabs across the top (four menu items on the mobile view) cover most of the other reasons why customers visit the site: Tickets, Maps and Schedules, Riding Metra and About Metra.
One notable new feature of the redesigned site is the ability to view a map of each line that shows the location in real time of all trains operating along the route, so customers can visualize the arrival of the next train. The geographic tracker can be found by clicking on the Line Map for each individual line under Maps and Schedules.
The schedule finder tool has also been upgraded so that it provides more information. Customers can decide whether to view the schedule between two stops or the whole schedule for the line, and the display will show if the train is running behind schedule (times for delayed trains will be listed in red) or if there are any other service changes affecting that train, such as a decision to add or skip stops.
The display also shows whether there are any alerts for that train or line and whether the train is still tracking in Metra’s GPS system. (GPS tracking sometimes malfunctions, and the agency wants customers to know when that happens because the schedule results won’t be up to date.) The display also shows whether the stations are accessible and whether bikes are allowed on each train.
The upgraded site also has direct links from the homepage to Metra’s increasingly active social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Also, for the first time, Metra soon will be promoting and providing free access to developers who wish to use the agency’s GTFS data to build apps about the Metra system.
Of course, the new website still allows customers to sign up for email alerts and tweets – and they can do it for more than two lines, which was the former limit. It also still allows them to buy Monthly Passes and 10-Ride Tickets; set up recurring orders; receive promotional and other information from Metra; print out a digital late slip for a tardy train; and learn about Metra business and jobs. It contains a primer for new riders; a trip planner; full information about fares and tickets; accessibility information; and information about Metra itself, including leadership, history, meeting information and a wealth of documents demonstrating Metra’s commitment to operating as transparently as possible.
Another highlight of the new website is that it’s saving Metra money. Moving to the agency’s new web services provider is expected to save Metra 50 percent, or about $400,000 a year, over our former contract. Development costs are also less and the open-source platform means that Metra can perform both support and development costs in-house, which will save money and allow us to update site content more quickly.