Reasons why I’m crazy for CooCoo…

I’ve mentioned it a few times on here, but I absolutely hate Metro-North’s phone information line. Back in the day you would call up and hit the first few letters of the station you were going to on your keypad. It was rather simple. Unfortunately, the system was “upgraded” to a voice recognition system that worked like crap. You would say your station name, and provided there was no background noise, only then would the system understand you. Anotherwords, if you were anywhere in the entire fricken city of New York, the schedule system didn’t work. But it would sure as hell patronize you… Can you repeat that? For folks without fancy phones with internet capabilities, this was pretty much the only option for getting train times on the go, besides having a timetable in your pocket.

Last week Metro-North announced a new way to access your train schedules: CooCoo. I had heard of it, as it had already been put to use for the Long Island Railroad, but had never used it. However, from the various articles written about it, I never quite realized how absolutely awesome CooCoo is. All you have to do is send a text message to 266266 (the number for CooCoo) with your stations like this: Goldens Bridge to Grand Central. Then CooCoo texts you back with the next five trains. Simple. Easy. Want to know the trains for tomorrow? You can do that too: Goldens Bridge to Grand Central 7am. Each train that CooCoo comes back with has a letter assigned to it… respond to the text message with just that letter, and it will text you more information about that train, like the duration and fare price, regular and onboard. CooCoo will also tell you if any of the trains are delayed or cancelled, which can also be a big help.

Now that I’ve started using CooCoo, I’ve come up with a few reasons why I absolutely love it:

CooCoo is easy to remember
I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what the phone number for the Metro-North info line is anymore. They got rid of their 800 number, and even THAT was confusing. Oh, and before they got rid of the 800, if you screwed up and dialed MTA-INFO instead of METRO-INFO, you found that you had called a sex line.

CooCoo, on the other hand, is pretty easy to remember. 266266. CooCoo on the number pad. Easy.

CooCoo is harder to confuse
Whoever tested Metro North’s phone system was probably in a white room with padded walls and there was no sound whatsoever. If you were anywhere outside a sterile setting, the system couldn’t understand the station you just said… which I previously mentioned is incredibly difficult in a city as loud as New York. It got frustrating really fast.

I purposely tried to confuse CooCoo. And you know what CooCoo said to me? “Emily, I am not that stupid.” Whether you typed Purdy’s or Purdys, Grand Central or GCT, CooCoo knew what the heck you were talking about. Want to really try to confuse it? Enter something like White Plains to New Haven. Instead of crapping out, CooCoo has the answer for you- with info on where to change trains, and what time your connection comes. CooCoo isn’t messing around.

Yes, as a matter of fact my phone does have the Prince of all Cosmos on it.

CooCoo is quiet and quick
In a restaurant and want to know when the next train is? Text CooCoo. Quiet, and quick. If I was sitting at a table next to someone shouting into their phone “GRAND CEN-TRAL TO GOL-DENS BRIDGE” I would probably want to slap them. Oh, and for stupid dyslexics like me, you can always look at that text message again if you forget or happen to transpose a few numbers in your mind (“Damn, was that train at 7:15 or 7:51?”).

CooCoo is so much more than train schedules
Want to know your horoscope? Sports scores? Weather? Flights? Movies? Even the schedule of the tides? CooCoo knows it all. Find out all the nifty things you can do with CooCoo.

While some news outlets have introduced CooCoo as a replacement to train departure boards, I don’t think that is the service’s niche. For instance, it doesn’t tell you what track your train is going to be on in Grand Central. Departure boards aren’t going obsolete anytime soon. CooCoo is instead a great service for anyone on the go, and to check if your train is on time – and I’m glad it has come to Metro-North.

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I Hate Metro-North’s Phone Information Line

So I’ve certainly mentioned the phone number belonging to Metro-North where you can get schedules several times before. First, when I dialed the number that I thought was the number, which wasn’t, it turned out to be a phone sex line. And then, I mentioned that the 800 number was going to be eliminated as part of a cost cutting measure. So now there is a regular number that you can call, which isn’t too bad in terms of cost, as opposed to the 800 number. Apparently at some point the system was changed from a press button system into a voice activated system. I’m not sure when this happened, perhaps when the 800 was eliminated. I honestly don’t call the phone scheduler all that often.

Oh, and I still wont call the scheduler all that often. Mostly because it is a pain in the damn ass. In the old system you would type on your phone’s number pad the first three letters of the train station you were leaving from. Now it asks you to say the name of the station out loud. This is when the problem starts – the system is absolutely terrible in recognizing your voice if there is any sort of background noise. I’m sure that is true in most systems of this nature.

But think about it, really a company ought to think about where the system is going to be used. Microsoft employs a similar system where you can call in to activate your version of Windows. You need to read aloud your computer’s product key. If you’ve just purchased a computer, and are in the process of activating it, there is a high likelihood you are in some sort of office or home setting where it is quiet. Having a system like that makes sense. But if you are a scheduling line for a commuter railroad in one of the biggest cities in the world, there is a high likelihood that people calling in may be in a noisy area. If I am in the city and I want to know when I need to get to Grand Central to catch my train, calling that phone system means I am shit out of luck, because with all the background noise in the city, there is no way in hell that system is understanding a single thing I say. I seriously got sick of the computer voice telling me that it didn’t understand what I said. The city is so damn noisy, how could this thing possibly work? Even at stations that are far quieter, Valhalla for example, I couldn’t get the damn thing to work either. The older system was clunkier, and didn’t have as many options, but it was far easier to use, in any environment.

Anyone else use the phone information line and have difficulties? I imagine it can’t be that heavily used if the MTA decided to get rid of the 800 number, but hey, I could be wrong.

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