A short time ago, the MTA officially debuted a new look to their website. The agency sent out a press release just a few minutes ago with some highlights:
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder today unveiled a new and dramatically simplified website that offers the MTA’s eight and a half million daily customers access to better organized and far more detailed information about their daily commute.
“One of my first priorities when I came back to the MTA was to improve the way we communicate with our customers,” said Walder, who began his tenure on October 5. “We have completely overhauled the MTA’s outdated website format by putting the customer first with clear, easy-to-find information to help navigate our transit system.”
The web improvements unveiled today include:
• A new “Plan&Ride” corner of the website for the first time puts a trip planner search feature directly on the mta.info homepage. Plan&Ride provides MTA customers with regional transit travel planning for not only the MTA’s twelve NYS counties, but well beyond those borders, into New Jersey and Connecticut. Plan&Ride offers MTA customers their choice of three trip planning systems, with Google’s transit trip planner as the default.
• A real-time service status information box is front and center on the homepage and on each MTA agency homepage. The information box also provides the status of traffic on the MTA’s seven bridges and two tunnels. Customers will now be able to check and see at a glance if their own subway line, bus route or railroad branch is operating with “Good Service” or if there are unexpected “Delays,” “Planned Work,” or “Service Changes”.
• A Developer Resource Center where the MTA will make data available to software developers who are interested in creating smartphone or web applications – or “apps” – that help our customers. While the new Resource Center will launch with existing service and schedule data, the intent over the longer term is to identify and make available other data about the MTA system and its operation. That should lead to new and exciting apps that will provide improved information for customers.
o The MTA today also jointly announced with Google that the leading format for sharing data, known as the “Google” Transit Feed Specification will now be known as the “General” Transit Feed Specification, or GTFS.
“Google applauds the MTA’s efforts to open up their route and schedule data to all app developers,” said Joe Hughes, Lead Developer of GTFS at Google. “Transit agencies around the world are finding that open GTFS data means more and better apps for transit riders, at no additional cost to the agency.”
“We need to get out of our own way and instead get out in front of the data sharing revolution,” said Walder. “By making access to our data directly from our website, we are encouraging the developer community to do the work we can’t to create apps that benefit our customers at no cost to the MTA.”
• More and better information for mobile users: The MTA mobile site, which customizes the view of schedules, maps, and service alerts for mobile devices, will reflect the new web redesign on its opening page. It will offer a detailed real-time service alert feature similar to the new system on the MTA webpage. A newly designed smartphone-compatible link will also be available as well.
o A new web-based feature available through Metro-North Railroad’s home page, Metro-North Train Time™ provides convenient real-time train status and schedule information on your smart phone or computer for 67 stations, including Grand Central and Harlem-125th Street. The feature will give up-to-the minute train arrival/departure information, train stops, track assignment, train status, and final destination information for the next 12 trains at those stations, and more will be added this spring. This is the first step in providing such improved information across the MTA family.
• An entirely new section on the website entitled “Accountability and Transparency” heralds a new era of openness at the MTA by grouping all types of budgetary and financial information in one place and by providing quick access to Board Agendas, MTA policies, reports and more. The new site also includes a Performance Indicator Dashboard – “MTA Stat” – that rates the MTA’s operating performance.
• An MTA Newsroom provides current information about MTA initiatives, including the introduction of a new video section.
• Direct links to newly launched MTA Facebook and Twitter pages will allow our customers to follow us in the world of social media.
“Moving forward, we will be updating and improving the web site on a continual basis, but it should be clear today that the MTA is committed to doing a better job communicating with our customers and using technology to operate more efficiently,” said Walder.
All I can say is about time! For someone who runs multiple businesses involving an online presence, I completely understand how important the look, & functionality of your website is. With all the technological advances that have debuted in the last 5+ years, it seems amazing that the MTA’s website barely implemented any of them into their site. I have wondered here & there about as to why they did not. However one transit advocate/blogger in particular has spent a lot of time looking into this.
Ben K. of Second Avenue Sagas fame has posted many entries over the last couple of years regarding the lack of keeping up with updated website technologies to the MTA website compared to other transit agencies. So it was no surprise to see he was all over this the other day. I am sure he will have a thorough update in the coming days.
I poked around the site a bit & feel it has potential from what I have seen so far. I won’t really focus on the looks of it as that tends to be a matter of opinion. As someone who deals with many websites, I find looks important but will never rate that higher than functionality.
From what I can tell, the key information that riders would visit the site for seems more easily accessible. This point alone means they are on the right track. I wonder if the problems I recently encountered with the service diversions in Firefox (do not display) have been fixed. In the end, good job MTA & try to keep up with technology this time around.
xoxo Transit Blogger