LEDs Strips Tell You the Trains Aren’t Running

[James] is a frequent user of the London Underground, a subway system that is not immune to breakdowns and delays. He wanted a way to easily tell if any of the trains were being disrupted, and thanks to some LEDs, he now has that information available at a glance without having to check a webpage first.

Inspired by the Blinky Tape project at FT Engineering, [James] thought he could use the same strip of addressable LEDs to display information about the tube. A Raspberry Pi B+ gathers data from the London Underground’s TfL API and does a few calculations on the data. If there is a delay, the LEDs in the corresponding section of the strip will pulse, alerting the user to a problem with just a passing glance.

The project is one of many that displays data about the conditions you’ll find when you step outside the house, without having to look at a computer or smartphone. We recently featured an artistic lamp which displays weather forecasts for 12 hours into the future, and there was an umbrella stand which did the same thing. A lot is possible with LEDs and a good API!

15 thoughts on “LEDs Strips Tell You the Trains Aren’t Running

  1. does this light up just a section of the led strip or is the whole thing just an on/off/blinking display?

    would be even cooler to have a map of the ‘tube’ and then light up the sections that are slow or stalled, as the ‘noc’ ops center would likely have.

    but if the whole strip is either on or off, I’m not sure I see the point of the -strip- (?)

    1. “If there is a delay, the LEDs in the corresponding section of the strip will pulse”

      You wrote more text than you’d have to read to find that one out ;)

    2. For the London Underground script the strip is divided into 13 coloured segments (one per line). If there are no problems on a line then that segment is just on. If there are issues then the 4 LEDs alternate flashing 2 on 2 off. Have a look at the video to see one segment going off.

      I think it would be tricky to fit the whole map on one strip! Have a look at this page for some context: https://www.tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status/

  2. I did the same thing! I was annoyed at the irregular interval used by the SF Muni’s J-Church line, so I set up a LED strip that computes the arrival time. Since the stop was about a 3 minute walk from the streetcar, but a 15 minute walk from BART, it showed the streetcar arrival time, and whether or not there’s a BART delay.

    http://molly.is/writing/we-made-a-muni-countdown-display/ / http://molly.is/writing/we-made-a-muni-countdown-display/

  3. There was a team at the Hackathon last weekend who was working on an alarm that would wake you up later if your train was delayed. Nice idea… you don’t get in trouble for being late because of the train and you get more sleep!

  4. “A lot is possible with LEDs and a good API!”

    You kinda forgot the whole Internet, the raspberry pi, etc…

    A better way to put it would be, “Even with a complex infrastructure like the Internet and a small computer, lots of data can be plotted with something as simple as a few LED’s.”

  5. I’m more interested in the LED strip itself. From the picture it looks like it is connected via USB. If it is really powered and controlled USB, it would be really cool.

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