Over the years, one of my major themes here at Second Ave. Sagas has been the MTA’s love/hate relationship with technology. When it comes to technological innovation and adaptation, the MTA has seemingly been mired in the early 1990s, and in fact, the Regional Plan Association just profiled the MTA’s technological woes in its latest Spotlight on the Region. Only over the last few months with MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder leading an increased push for better service and customer relations has the agency embraced newer transit technologies. Still, the agency can go only as far as their operating system can take them, and to that end, Heather Haddon reported in amNew York yesterday, the agency has some work to do.
According to transit watchdogs, old software and inadequate Internet connections are plaguing work at MTAHQ and interfering with basic tasks. Based on information Haddon received, the MTA is stuck with Microsoft applications from 2003 or earlier and have trouble with large-scale tasks. Work assignments take four months longer to generate than they should, and the MTA has run into legal sanctions when data has been lost due to computer errors. Meanwhile, Internet bandwidth is so scarce at the officers that the Internet slows to a crawl everyday.
In the end, Walder recognizes these institutional problems. “These are things we have to find out how to be more nimble about it,” he said. Yet, the problem remains the money. It costs a lot to upgrade computer equipment, and I know plenty of businesses still trying to rely on computers that are pushing seven or eight years of age. Better technology at the office will lead to a more efficient and streamlined operations, but can the MTA afford to get there in the first place?