This LED map tracks the MBTA in real-time


Maker uses an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and LEDs to create a real-time map that keeps tabs on Boston’s trains.


Inspired by his love for making and public transit, MIT student Ian Reynolds has built an MBTA map into the wall of his fraternity room to show real-time locations of vehicles using bright LEDs.

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The Maker employed a few meters of NeoPixels, driven by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) that takes orders from a Python script running on a Raspberry Pi lying on his floor. The color of the LEDs were specially designed to match those of each transit line (e.g. red line, blue line, green line, orange line, etc.). Every 10 to 15 seconds, the system receives data via the MBTA’s API, which in turn, causes the respective lights to flash based on the trains’ approximate GPS location throughout Boston.

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“It maps those to some LEDs, decides which ones actually need to be changed, and then sends that information to the Arduino, which does the bit pushing,” Reynolds explains. “In addition, I’m writing a tiny web app that lets me change visualizations and adjust the brightness for when I need to sleep.”

Intrigued? The Maker has put together an elaborate blog post that breaks down his entire project, from the hardware to the headaches. You can also get a glimpse of it all below!

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