Michael Rundle, reporter for Metro, one of the city’s free daily newspapers, called me last week to talk subways. Specifically, we chatted about the recent proliferation of blogs talking about the MTA and the city’s subways.
It all started a few months ago with the F Express plan. During the major push for this plan — which is still gaining traction among politicians — Gary led the charge with some help from Kensington (Brooklyn) and The Gowanus Lounge. With a new group dedicted to saving the G train setting up shop online, Rundle and his article affirm what those of us writing have learned: The MTA is listening to the bloggers.
The message seems to be getting through. Elliot Sander, executive director of the MTA, recognized that bloggers were calling for refunds after subway flooding during an Aug. 9 press conference. And with the introduction of “Rider Report Cards” on the L and 7 trains and new features on the MTA’s Web site, transit officials are increasingly recognizing the importance of customer opinions.
“Yes [we read them], and yes [they make an impact],” MTA spokesperson Jeremy Soffin said yesterday. “Reading blogs is a good way of keeping in touch with what our customers are thinking. Like anything online, the information varies from extremely well-informed people to those who aren’t well informed. But there certainly are a lot of real experts out there.”
Now, neighborhood blogs aren’t the only ones writing about the subway. Gothamist and City Room both cover the MTA religiously, and Streetsblog keeps its eye on public transportation as well. In another realm, the tireless contributors to the Subchat message board keep tabs on the city’s transit systems as well.
For our part, we bloggers have learned that for us to be heard, we have to stay on top of both the news and the facts. Here’s what yours truly had to say to Rundle: “I’ve been very outspoken at times. But at the same time I have to really be on my toes that I’m getting the story right. We have a lot of responsibility now. Things move slowly [at the MTA] but they are listening.”
As I today celebrate the nine-month anniversary of this blog’s first post, I am on the one hand surprised at the traction I and other subway writers have gotten. The MTA listens to us and uses our words as part of a barometer on customer service. It’s humbling. But at the same time, it’s hardly surprising that subway blogs and transit-oriented posts have gained in popularity. This city, after all, runs on its subways. We’re lost without them. And for that, I’ll keep on blogging.