MTA Seeks Proposals For Their Alert System

Last month I wrote about the storm report the MTA submitted to Gov. Spitzer in regards to the August 8th system that sent the transit system into a state of mass chaos. In the report one of the solutions the MTA planned to implement was a service alert system that would provide e-mail and text messaging service alerts to its customers. In regards to those plans, the MTA is now seeking proposals from companies who would be interested in helping the agency create such a system since their current system can not handle the volume of subscribers expected for the service.

Here is the full press release:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority today announced the release of a competitive procurement for an e-Alert system that will provide timely and consistent e-mail and text messaging service alerts to its customers. The MTA is seeking the services of an external firm to provide a common platform for an all-agency service alert system that can be used by operations staff and public information officers at MTA operating agencies to notify customers of any events that might disrupt their normal travel. The agency is hoping to begin providing the service to customers by the spring of 2008.

The proposed system would send text messages or e-mails to customers’ designated e-mail accounts, cell phones, PDAs and other similar communications devices – in as close to real-time as possible. Such messages would include notification of planned service disruptions such as scheduled track work that might result in weekend delays or alternate train routing, as well as unplanned disruptions resulting from fires, storms, flooding or other emergency conditions.

The new email and text messaging service was recommended in the MTA’s report responding to the August 8 storm that flooded parts of the transportation network. It is also consistent with work done by the MTA’s Customer Service Initiative earlier this year as one of MTA Executive Director and CEO Lee Sander’s primary priorities.

“Better customer communication has been high on my priority list since I came to the MTA earlier this year,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “The flooding on August 8 made it clear that timely text and email alerts are necessary, and I am confident we can find a third-party provider with the processing power to carry this out. It will no doubt be the largest such customer service alert system in the nation.”

Over time, the MTA anticipates up to one million subscribers to this service, a number which cannot be handled with in-house technology. Currently, such large amounts of e-mail would require many distributed servers and would take hours to send out. As the delivery of such information can be critical in times of emergency or major service disruptions, the proposed system must be capable of delivering vast numbers of messages in a very short time.

This system will also serve the purpose of integrating several separate MTA operating agency-specific systems to allow MTA customers to do one-stop registration for any number of MTA services.

One has to wonder why it took the MTA all these years & storms later to come up with such a solution. When they initially created their in-house system, why didn’t they think to create one that could handle a huge volume of subscribers? I mean it is not like they didn’t know they have millions of riders who use their system daily! This is just another example of MTA incompetence over the last decade! Lets hope the new regime can bring the agency back from the depths of incompetence it currently resides in!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Faces Backlash At First Public Hearing (West Nyack Version)

Now lets focus on the less publicized MTA hearing held at Palisades Center in West Nyack. Yesterday’s hearing in West Nyack might have had a low turnout but the outcry against the proposed fare hikes was still there. Here are a few comments from the hearing courtesy of LoHud:

Haverstraw resident Randy Phitts – “It hurts our pockets when you guys try to raise everything in so many different ways. If you’re going to hit the bridges and tunnels, you can’t hit trains and buses, too. You can’t do it all at once. It’s too much of a shock.”

Nyack resident John Elfrank-Dana – “I think we should be rewarding people for taking public transportation, not sticking them with fare hikes.”

Suffern Democrat Assemblyman Ellen Jaffee – “We would hope that you would delay this decision and allow us to focus on our budget and have the dialogue with you to attempt to resolve some of these issues.”

However the message from local politicians did not solely focus on opposing the fare hike. Rockland Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell did not offer any opposition to the fare hike but she did have a strong message for the MTA in regards to what her constituents deserve:

“If Rockland commuters are going to pay more money as a result of a fare increase, the MTA should be sure that they get something back for their investment. If we are going to help the MTA, the MTA needs to help us.”

Personally I think Harriet Cornell brings up a very valid point. Rockland County residents definitely do not get good treatment from the MTA. Quite frankly service from the agency is barely even offered. Why should they have to pay more for the sub par access they receive to MTA transit options.

I do wonder if the lack of people attending the hearing represents Rockland County residents’ feelings on the lack of service available to them. I guess they didn’t see the point in showing up although that way of thinking does not help the situation

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Faces Backlash At First Public Hearing (Brooklyn Version)

Yesterday marked the first two public hearings held by the MTA in regards to the proposed fare hike. Lets start with the lowdown of the hearing held at the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn. According to AMNY, the MTA “faced a firing line”.

As I wrote about in a previous entry, a press conference was held before the Brooklyn hearing in which local politicians announced bills intended to get millions for the MTA. However MTA Spokesman Jeremy Soffin was quick to dismiss those bills when he made this comment: “We’d need a commitment closer to 2 billion before we could consider putting off a fare increase.”

Here are some of the comments made at yesterday’s hearing:

60 year old Brighton Beach resident Martin Gangersky – “I understand once again you want to raise the price of admission to wait for trains that hardly ever run. This is no way to run a system. The service stinks.”

Gene Russianoff of The Straphangers Campaign – “Riders are just getting by financially and this is a real blow to their ability to make it in New York.”

Afterwards MTA Executive Director & CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander had this to say:

“It’s not where we want to be, we want to do better and that’s why we want the money to invest in the future.”

Well Elliot how about getting the money from the source that continues to shortchange the MTA & in turn us riders, the government!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Christine Quinn Joins Other Politicians Opposing A Fare Hike…..

A few hours before yesterday’s initial MTA public hearings, the speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn added her name to the long list of politicians who are opposed to a fare hike. Here are a few comments from her including where she urges the MTA board to exhaust every possible alternative funding stream before asking straphangers to dig deeper into their wallets.” She also went on to say “Until the MTA has demonstrated that in order to meet operating expenses they must tap hardworking commuters, I will oppose any fare increases.”

Lets hope Christine’s influence can help the cause in preventing this fare hike!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Local Politicians Hold Press Conference Before Fare Hike Hearing

Yesterday marked the first two public hearings by the MTA regarding their proposed fare hike. However before the hearing in Brooklyn began, some local politicians including the Brooklyn Borough President held a press conference. The press conference was held on the steps of the Borough Hall subway station. Here was the press release issued for the press conference:

n Monday, November 5, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joins Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Bklyn), Senator Tom Duane (D, WFP-Manhattan), and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer to announce new legislation to increase State and City funding of the MTA and to urge the MTA to postpone any fare hikes until there has been a chance for review of other funding options. The MTA’s first public hearing on a fare hike will be held tonight at 6 P.M. at Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Ballroom, 333 Adams Street, Brooklyn.

The new legislation, A.9424/S.6526 and A.9425/S.6510, will increase the State and City funding for the MTA NYC Transit and commuter rail by a total of $684,274,000. These additional operating funds represent a fair and equitable funding option that may make the planned MTA fare hike unnecessary. The legislators and borough presidents urge swift passage of the bills and ask the MTA to delay any action on a fare hike until the State and City have considered these funding options.

The press conference was apart of their plan to spread the word about their opposition to the proposed fare hike. Their plan of action also included helping the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign in handing out leaflets urging people to attend the public hearings held by the MTA. As far as the press conference is concerned, here is a brief comment made by Manhattan Democratic State Senator Tom Duane: “It’s time for the state to step up and do its fair share in funding our mass transit system with the funding it needs and deserves.”

xoxo Transit Blogger

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