capsule review

TreKing (Chicago)

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder TreKing (Chicago)

    PCWorld Rating

With its reputation for corruption, budget problems, and (most important) persistently tardy service, the Chicago Transit Authority has a lot of cynicism to battle. Commuters curse it daily, and local news outlets frequently deride it as an example of bureaucratic waste. So when the government agency unveiled its Web-based CTA Bus Tracker service, the useful product took the public by surprise.

The site is simple: pick the route, the direction, and the stop. The resulting page tracks the real-time locations of GPS-enabled buses and estimates their arrival times at most bus stops. No longer must you languish at a bus stop in the sometimes-less-than-ideal Chicago weather, with no idea when the bus will arrive--or whether it will come at all.

The TreKing app thoroughly covers the CTA's service, streamlines it, and offers excellent extras.

The Trek Tracker is TreKing's most basic function, condensing the CTA site's several-page presentation into a series of drop-down menus. This arrangement reduces page reloads, which is a blessing on mobile connections. In the Trek Tracker, users can switch to a map view, temporarily "watch" the route in the notifications panel, and set an alarm to go off a couple of minutes before the bus is due to arrive. Users have the option of saving Treks for future use, which is especially handy for recurring commutes. Even better, saved Treks can be grouped according to the user's preference.

The Find Stops and Quick Treks features use GPS location to identify nearby bus and train stops. Quick Treks looks up the possible routes from the specified location. Trek Planner works much like the CTA's Trip Planner; but the app has built-in train tracking, indicating that the developer anticipates that the CTA will someday fulfill its promise to operate GPS-enabled trains.

The last application update integrated Pace bus routes (Pace serves the Chicago suburbs to complement the CTA's coverage area) in addition to incorporating the usual bug fixes. The CTA BusTracker is an effective Web application on its own, but TreKing is a robust and highly-detailed application that effectively extends a solid product far beyond its foundations.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder TreKing (Chicago)

    PCWorld Rating
Shop Tech Products at Amazon