MTA Text Alerts Coming To A Screen Near You

So the MTA is finally catching up with the times & providing real time text alerts in the case of emergency service disruptions. The steam picked up to implement this technology after the horrific flooding that practically shut the entire subway system down almost a year ago. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

If you get an e-mail or text message from the MTA this fall, it’s nothing to LOL about.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to start sending alerts to commuters’ cellphones and computers with details about unplanned service problems in September, the Daily News has learned.

The notices will help riders alter their routines to avoid floods and other incidents that cause delays, or warn them away from a crippled system altogether, officials said.

The need for a communications upgrade was highlighted during the Aug. 8, 2007, deluge that flooded subway tracks, forcing the authority to cut electricity and halt trains.

Many riders, unaware of the severity of the widespread service disruptions, continued to their local stations and became ensnared in delays and line shutdowns.

“Communications with the public when you have this type of catastrophe is essential,” MTA CEO Elliot Sander said.

Efforts to improve communications began before last summer but intensified after the Aug. 8 storm, Sander said.

Riders will be able to sign up for the free service on the MTA’s Web site –

They can tailor their alerts by focusing on the routes they take most often, MTA deputy executive director Christopher Boylan said.

The authority has retained an outside firm to distribute the texts and e-mails, Boylan said. The distributor will be able to send more than 1 million missives within five minutes, he said.

NYC Transit doesn’t e-mail or text riders about unplanned service disruptions.

Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road do send alerts but at times have trouble getting the information out in a timely manner. The MTA moves about 8.5 million riders a day.

I don’t know if I should focus on the positive that the implementation of this technology is almost here or the negative on how the MTA is as usual behind the times. I will look at it from both perspectives. Lets first look at the good which is that the millions of riders who depend on our system will have access to the best information possible in case of an emergency service disruption. This can only be seen as a good thing. Lets hope the ridership takes full advantage of such a service as it is only there to help us all in the long run.

However I must call into question why it took the MTA so long to implement technology that has been used by so many for an extended period of time. While they can say it was on the agenda all along, it should not have taken our system nearly being rendered completely useless to implement such technology. With that being said, there is no excuse for it taking about a year if not a little bit over that in the end to get this to the riding public. I always tell people it is better to be proactive than reactive. The MTA should seriously take those words to heart in all facets of their operations.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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