MTA Trip Planner Adds New Features

I just received a press release from the MTA within the last couple of minutes. The release talks about brand new features added to their “Trip Planner” service. Here are the details:

MTA New York City Transit has added another customer friendly option to its popular on-line travel itinerary service, Trip Planner, and introduced a new, smaller Widget that users can add to their desktop, officials announced today. Trip Planner is used by more than three hundred thousand commuters a month to plan trips using the bus or subway network.

To make using the on-line itinerary service even easier to use, programmers in NYC Transit’s Internet Technologies group have added a ‘preferred route function’ to the customized options already available on Trip Planner. The preferred route option allows more knowledgeable customers to specify which routes they wish to take.

Using the Custom Planner page, users that are familiar with a particular route can select a starting train line or bus route as well as an ending bus route or train line and receive their preferred route to the location of their choice. This option works best with either one or two- legged trips, and is currently available on the desk top version of Trip Planner.

“We added the preferred route option as a direct result customer feedback,” says Fred Benjamin, Assistant Vice President for Customer Service. “All of the enhancements we’ve made to Trip Planner have been made to provide the tools riders want to see in an on-line itinerary planner. Each has made the program that much better and easier for our customers to use,” added Benjamin.

Earlier this year, programmers added a walking time feature to itinerary results so customers would know the total travel time of their trip. The system now also has the ability to save previously used addresses so repeat users will not have to re-enter the same address or location.

In addition to the new option, NYC Transit also unveiled a new MetroCard-sized Trip Planner widget, a web application that allows customers to add Trip Planner to their website, blog, or personalized homepage. Earlier this summer Transit released its calculator-sized widget, which serves the same function. The smaller widget takes up less space than the calculator-sized widget. Customers can log on to Trip Planner to choose which size they prefer to add. Webmasters can also customize the widget for their site, by setting default values for the origin and destination by including fields in the querystring of the source URL.

Trip Planner has grown in popularity since it was first unveiled in December 2006, and recent numbers back that up. Visitors to www.tripplanner.mta.info outpaced telephone calls to the agency’s travel information hotline for customized subway and bus directions over the past twelve months, such that Trip Planner has become customer’s preferred option to obtain NYC Transit travel information.

According to NYC Transit’s Customer Service Division, over the course of the past year, beginning in September 2007 and ending September 2008, Trip Planner visits saw a 148% increase, from 138,798 to more than 344,000 per month. During the same period, telephone calls to the travel information line declined slightly from 150,000 to a little more than 125,000 per month. By September 2008, there were 219,245 more visits to Trip Planner than phone calls to the information line. The total number of daily visitors to Trip Planner through September 2008 equaled 2,429,819, a 189% increase over the 841,963 visitors received through September 2007.

“This data represents to us that customers have a clear desire to access travel information when and where they want it,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, Vice President of Corporate Communications at NYC Transit, citing that the travel information hotline is only manned within certain set hours in the day. “Trip Planner and the On the Go! mobile version have allowed us to serve more customers on a variety of platforms in an efficient manner even as we look to reduce operating expenses in this time of budgetary constraint.”

NYC Transit Customer Services, a division of Corporate Communications, monitors traffic to both Trip Planner and the telephone hotline using software with the assistance of outside vendor Aspect Communications, and developments done from TIS applications/Internet Technologies.

I’ve actually never used this service. I never felt the need to since I know the system like the back of my hand. This is why every person I know calls me for the best directions to their destination by mass transit or an alternate way to shorten their commute or in case of emergency. All those years of reading maps & experimenting helped!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Public Hearing On Fares For New Station

The Metro-North issued a press release earlier to announce a public hearing to discuss a fare proposal. The proposal calls for the new station, that will serve Yankee Stadium, to be included in the same fare zone as all other Bronx stations. Here is the entire release:

MTA Metro-North Railroad is proposing that its new station serving Yankee Stadium and the adjacent community be in the same fare zone as all other Metro-North stations in the Bronx. A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Monday, November 17, at 6 p.m. in the Office of the Bronx District Attorney at 198 East 161 Street in the Bronx.

Metro-North will begin service to this new station in the second quarter of 2009 and a public hearing is required to establish fares to and from the new station, which is located on the Hudson Line south of the Morris Heights Station.

Fares from Grand Central and Harlem-125th Street and from suburban Hudson Line stations would be the same as existing fares to and from all other Hudson Line Bronx stations.

Metro-North also will introduce new “via” fares for travel to the new station for Harlem and New Haven Line stations. These via fares will consist of the already established one-way fare to Manhattan plus a small additional amount for the portion of the trip between Manhattan and the new station. Metro-North is proposing an additional $1.00 for all peak one-way fares and 75 cents for all one-way off-peak fares.

The new station will be open year round serving both the neighborhood and baseball fans attending the ball games. Metro-North also proposes to honor CityTickets for weekend travel between the new station and both Grand Central and Harlem-125th Street. CityTicket is a special, $3.25, weekend-only fare for travel on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road within New York City limits.

The hearing can be reached by the 4, B and D subways to 161st Street –Yankee Stadium stop, or via the Bx1 or Bx6 buses. Registration to speak will be open until 8 p.m. Nov. 17.

To register in advance or comment in writing, please contact Doug Sussman, MTA Director of Community Affairs, 347 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017, or call 212-878-7483. In addition, customers may also comment on the proposed new fare on the MTA website www.mta.info. The proposal will be voted on by the full board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December.

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MTA & TWU Local 100 Hit A Roadblock During Contract Talks

Three days ago I wrote about the MTA & TWU Local 100 potentially being near a new deal for bus drivers & mechanics who work for MTA Bus Company. The news of a potential deal which was broke by Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News might have been a bit premature. It seems the two sides have hit a roadblock during contract talks & as one would expect, the roadblock is money. Pete Donohue has the latest:

Hopes of a contract deal between the MTA and the Transport Workers Union being reached months ahead of schedule have hit a familiar roadblock – money.

Sources said the two sides are not close to agreeing on a schedule of pay increases for bus and subway workers, who shut the city down with a three-day strike in December 2005.

“We’re not near a deal yet, but we remain committed to the process and optimistic that we’ll reach the right resolution,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Jeremy Soffin, describing talks with TWU Local 100 as “productive.”

The union has sought pay raises in line with those granted to police sergeants and officers, who obtained annual increases averaging more than 4% a year.

The city’s firefighters union yesterday announced a contract with the city granting 8% raises over the next two years, which prompted a transit union spokesman to gripe about “disparate treatment.”

Click here for the complete report.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Buses To Replace Some Trains On The Port Jefferson Branch

I received a press release from the Long Island Rail Road to announced buses were replacing some trains on the Port Jefferson branch due to Sperry Rail Testing. I am not sure why I received this press release yesterday when their site says it went up on the 10th. I’m assuming that was a typo but either way in case you didn’t read it, the press release stated:

The MTA Long Island Rail Road will provide bus service in place of trains, following the morning rush between Greenlawn and Port Jefferson on Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24 in order to use the Sperry Rail Car to conduct special rail tests. Three eastbound and three westbound trains will be affected on October 23rd. Two eastbound and two westbound trains will be affected on October 24th. Customers should allow up to 25 minutes additional travel time.

The Sperry Rail Car, a bright yellow vehicle fitted with ultrasonic and induction test equipment, is designed to detect internal rail defects not readily visible to the eye. Defects that are found will be corrected immediately by a crew of LIRR track maintenance workers. The Sperry Rail Car is used twice a year to inspect approximately 500 miles of LIRR track.

October 23, 2008:

Eastbound

Customers on the 10:05 AM, 12:05 PM and 2:05 PM trains from Hicksville to Port Jefferson will transfer to buses at Huntington to complete their trips.

Westbound

Customers on the 10:31 AM, 12:31 PM and 2:31 PM trains from Port Jefferson will board buses at their stations to Hicksville. At Hicksville, customers will transfer for train service west. Passengers should anticipate additional travel time of 44 minutes.

October 24, 2008:

Eastbound

Customers on the 10:05 AM and 12:05 PM trains from Hicksville to Port Jefferson will transfer to buses at Huntington to complete their trips.

Westbound

Buses will replace the 10:31 AM and the 12:31 PM trains from Port Jefferson. At Hicksville, customers will transfer for train service west. Passengers should anticipate additional travel time of 29 minutes.

Customers should pick up a copy of the special track work timetable at Port Jefferson Branch stations or at western LIRR terminal. For additional information, customers can contact the LIRR’s Travel Information Center, 24-hours a day, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR, in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR or in New York City at 718-217-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD telephone number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022. Customers can also consult the LIRR’s website at www.mta.info.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Filthy LIRR Restrooms Are Unacceptable!

As a commuter on the Long Island Rail Road, I know what it is to pay a premium on commuter costs due to living in the suburbs. One of the things that irk me about the premium costs as compared to the subway are the conditions we are forced to put up with. I have lost count of how many dirty railroad cars I’ve been in or how many newspapers & coffee cups/stains I see all over. However the biggest complaint I notice inside the cars or on any LIRR property are the sad condition of the restrooms. So I was disgusted while not being surprised when I spoke with one of my best friend’s yesterday about this.

When I was on the phone with Dawn, she mentioned how horrible her commute was more so due to the rude people on the subway & on the elevator towards the LIRR platform in Woodside. However even with all of that, she was most disgusted by two recent occurrences while inside restrooms at two different LIRR stations. The first occurrence was at the Jamaica Station where the locks were broken on the stall doors. So she had to hold it in place while her fellow passenger had to use the restroom. The second occurrence was at the Hicksville station the next day where human feces was spotted all over the floor.

I am sorry but these kind of conditions are unacceptable for the premium price we have to pay to use the LIRR. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that subway riders deserve to put up with these conditions (which they already do). I’m just saying that for the money we are forced to pay for inadequate service, we should have better facilities at our disposal. The first step would be to have people clean up after themselves but I can’t ignore the lack of regular cleaning of these facilities. I applauded the fact that she was going to call the LIRR to complain. These conditions are unacceptable & should be taken care of immediately.

So if anyone comes across conditions like this, please don’t just complain about it to your friends, co-workers, etc…, file a complaint with the respective agency & lets hope they follow up & rectify the situations.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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