Some subway riders now have to look no farther than their phones to find out when their trains are coming.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Friday unveiled a new mobile device application that provides real-time arrival information for several subway lines.
The MTA Subway Time app covers the 156 stations along the No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines, and the 42nd Street Shuttle train. MTA officials expect to expand it to all lines over the next three years.
The app gives estimated arrival times for the next several trains at the station of rider's choosing -- similar to the information provided by countdown clocks installed at many subway stations.
"One of the things we've found is that when we put the countdown clocks at the stations, people really love it," MTA chairman and chief executive Joseph Lhota said. "Well now they don't have to wait to go down there to find out when their train is coming. They can find out on the street."
The app, which is in the beta test phase, is available for iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch and computer desktops.
Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, a nonprofit transit advocacy group, called the app a "fantastic idea." He said it could prove especially useful to late-night travelers on subway lines where trains can sometimes be 20 minutes apart or more. For them, MTA Subway Time could help them choose between a train or a taxi.
"It makes a big difference if you can minimize the wait time," said Russianoff, who praised the MTA for embracing mobile technology.
The subway system joins other MTA agencies, including the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and some city bus routes, in using mobile technology to provide scheduling information to riders.
The MTA is also providing its subway arrival time data to third-party developers to create their own apps.