Now, we’re talkin’ service alerts. Or is that texting?
Nearly three months after a torrential downpour led to a system-wide failure of the subways that exposed the MTA’s deep-rooted communications problems, the MTA has issued a request for proposals for a text message alert system. A press release from the MTA has more:
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.
This plan — similar to ones already in place in New Jersey and Washington, DC — is a welcome development. It first hit the news one week after the flood and was featured as a prime recommendation in the report on the MTA’s failings during the flood.
MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander noted that a text message alert system had been in the works prior to the flood. That August morning’s event simply served as a catalyst to get the ball rolling faster.
“Better customer communication has been high on my priority list since I came to the MTA earlier this year,” Sander said. “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.”
As it stands now, the MTA is anticipating well over one million subscribers to their text message alert system, and they have to search for outside agency to handle the volume because they simply do not have the server capacity to handle such a large system. We all know that the MTA’s website has a history of breaking down under pressure, and I’m glad to see the Authority calling for a little outside help.
Eventually, all the MTA’s e-mail alert systems will be housed under one roof, and we’ll all be happy knowing that the latest service advisory is just a text message away.