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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[…] 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. […]

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