Published on March 20, 2014
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools January 2014
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Preface Originally drafted in June 2010, was intended as a report to Director of Innovation and Special Projects Joshua Robin. In the interim years since this report was drafted, the MBTA has embarked on a significant jour- ney to improve communications with its riders, including many new channels to connect with riders about service advisories, emergencies, delays, and general information. A number of them had been included in the original report as directions of recommended improvement. Nevertheless, there are many more ways the agency can reach riders and many existing methods require refinement to be effective and trustworthy to riders. This update seeks to recognise the progress the MBTA has made in 3 years. It further visualizes a tight, integrated communications chain that is supported by continued organizational and tech- nological improvements at low cost.
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Communications are integral to transportation systems. They provide navigational guidance, supply live service information, and are critical in emergencies. Universal accessibility, conspicuity, and efficiency are paramount in the passenger communications of any transportation system. Boston’s transit system at one time was the leader in rider information and navigability. It was one of the first transit systems in the US to em- brace clarity and usability through uniformity with a system-wide effort initiated by station renova- tions in January 1965. Architectural and design firm Cambridge Seven Associates, led by archi- tect Peter Chermayeff, pioneered the unification of identity and uniform typographic style for the system that still holds today. Since then, several types of signage have been introduced to the system and new communica- tions media have been invented. Digital and vari- able message systems permit a greater trans- parency and agility of information and give the agency more active ways to inform passengers at platforms. Social media networks further extend this above ground and between stations. All of this is motivated by 4 objectives: Passenger Experience Experiences of passengers in the system are closely tied to the efficacy of various information systems working in concert. These communica- tions are the most critical in that they facilitate use of the system and fulfil an increasingly ex- pected core promise of information. Communica- tions fulfilling this obligation include wayfinding signage; arrival announcements over intercoms and digital message boards; courtesy messages; and service change notices. Universal Access Boston’s status as a tourist destination puts em- phasis on the need for clear and simple language in print, electronically, and in speech. In many places around the world, signage relies heav- ily on well-designed universal symbology to aid in cross-language understanding without costly translations of whole passages of text. When signage is translated into the local tongue, it is written or verbalized at a vocabulary level equivalent that of a fifth grade reading level to facilitate comprehension and translation across age groups and levels of literacy. This is usually only to enhance comprehension of well-designed universal symbology. The region served by the MBTA is also diverse in demographic composition and further highlights the need for universal access from an equality perspective. Legal Obligations Several messages to passengers are obligated by legal disclaimer or legal mandate. Commu- nications fulfilling this obligation include signs and announcements against smoking and for priority seating for disabled persons. Automated verbal announcements and visual transcriptions of announcements also serve to improve the experience of all riders while satisfying needs and requirements as outlined by the American Disabilities Act. Safety Clarity and visibility of emergency placards is also crucial to the safety of riders in the unlikely event of an emergency on board a train, while riding a bus, or standing at a platform. These must convey the appropriate amount of informa- tion in the correct order to aid in the safe op- eration of emergency equipment and possible evacuation of a transit vehicle. Safety signage must also fulfill the requirement of universal access in order to be effective. Objectives
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Communications Media As of 2010, there were a number of existing pas- senger information systems that were located on trains, buses, platforms, and station entrances. Many of them have been performing dutifully while others were being under-utilized. Riders in 2013 have seen incremental improve- ments where budgets and operational flexibility have allowed more efficient communication. These have created new opportunities for the T to communicate with riders and different ways for riders to be notified about service disruptions. Variable Message Boards These are LED matrix boards hang over plat- forms and occasionally at station entrances. Both the subway system and suburban commuter rail system take advantage of similar LED variable message boards. Prior to the summer of 2012, these message boards at subway platforms only displayed the T logo, date, and time. As trains approached a sta- tion, they would display a transcript of the verbal announcements of approach and arrival. Since then, the MBTA has sequentially tested and deployed an update to the signs to instead show the estimated arrival of the next two trains. MIT research conducted in anticipation of the change showed this improved customer satisfaction by upward of 15%. This data uses the information the MBTA already makes available through an XML data feed to mobile apps and sites made independently by third parties. The groundwork for this was laid in previous efforts by MassDOT developers to open live tracking data to eventually improve customer experience. The T has also recently started using large, mo- bile variable message boards, more commonly used in highway road side message operations. This is one more way the T can make service alerts as conspicuous for customers if advisories are planned far enough in advance to mobilize this equipment. Left: Variable message board in use at Kendall Above: Variable message board showing train arrival at Downtown Crossing
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Recommended Improvements Variable message boards now fulfil a significant role in conveying up-to-the-minute information about train locations. What could be significantly improved is the locations of some of these vari- able message boards. As equipment is inevitably upgraded and re- placed, older signs could be installed at crucial junctions where lines cross and information about trains on connecting lines can assist pas- sengers in making smart decisions. Downtown, walkable distances to the next stop could be affixed next to next train displays so that custom- ers can decide whether to walk after transfer or wait for the connecting train. This affords extra capacity on trains at downtown segments where congestion is an issue. Signs could also be made visible over fare gates or even station entrances to make these walk-or- ride decisions before they even enter the station. This not only improves the passenger experi- ence, but also releases capacity for riders who do need to use the system to get to destinations beyond walking distance. London has been com- plimenting this with street signage to help relieve the crush on the Underground without the cost of significant network expansion. A-Frames and Large Station Placards Frequently used around stations or in front of stations or in the fare area, these signs provide space for semi-permanent, large-format signage. A-frames are flexible and can be placed where needed, while fixed display cabinets in the ‘Pas- senger Communications’ area provide a consis- tent location to look for updates. Over the past 3 years, the consistency and ap- pearance of the A-frames and various placards that have been used on them have improved dra- matically. Newer plastic A-frames permit modular replacement of pre-printed placards. The printed placards themselves have been redesigned and are now cleaner and more consistent with other service advisory signage. Lately they have been used as temporary wayfinding signage to direct passengers to shuttle bus pickup points during bus substitution of rail service. During construction, large semi-permanent plac- ards are placed adjacent or on work barriers to inform the public of various project facts. These may include cost and estimated date of comple- tion. Left: Modular A-frame in use as temporary signage at Harvard station Above: Medium format adhesive vinyl signage outlines direction to shuttle bus for Red Line
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Recommended Improvements While the overall design and consistency of the signs used on A-frames has improved, the plac- ards used for various purposes could certainly be improved. Non-wayfinding placards should be designed to provide succinct information supple- mented by universal symbology to improve ef- ficiency, readability, and universal access. Semi-permanent signage in the customer com- munication area can also be improved or updat- ed. They can provide more relevant information about upcoming changes or feature T staff who are champions of excellent customer service. Construction project placards should include short URL links and smartphone-friendly QR codes to forward customers to capital construc- tion pages that feature structured information about each project. It would be beneficial to up- date the construction pages to be more consis- tent and structured across both MBTA and Mass- DOT site domains. The Boston Redevelopment Authority’s recent site redesign is a good refer- ence point for how project information should be organized, summarized, and easily referenced. Similarly, placards related to service changes should also feature short URL links and QR codes. These should forward customers to the related service advisory that has further informa- tion about the scope of the service interruption. These service changes can also link back to pre- vious service changes and project pages if they are part of an ongoing maintenance program. This summary of concerted maintenance efforts provide a publicly visible curriculum vitae of the work the MBTA is investing back in the system and makes it easier for customers to see that. Placards related to service interruptions should also feature a link to T-Alerts to increase the share of customers receiving continued alerts via email or text message. Advertising Space In the years since 2010, the T has made even more surfaces available for advertising as part of a larger effort to bridge operating budget gaps. Advertising now covers train exteriors with exterior wraps, train interiors with interior wraps, and LCD displays that have been installed at no expense to the T by Titan Outdoors. Because the LCD displays are able to cycle through content in a way that static paper or applied vinyl cannot, they can also show service advisories that have been submitted for circula- tion. This is an immensely effective use of these displays. Adding service advisories to the cycled content permits the T to share these alerts with customers while still keeping the same space available for advertising revenue. The T also currently intersperses its own ad- vertisements in print inside vehicles, including on buses where there is ample space currently not being used for advertising revenue. These advertisements have highlighted passenger safety, warned against MBTA employee harass- ment, and even featured the ‘Courtesy Critters’, a series of advertisements encouraging passenger courtesy. Upper Left: Screen in use within NYC MTA fare collection area with other notices in an aggregated customer information center Lower Left: Screen in use on Chicago CTA station platform also used for cycling adver- tisements Spread: Screen in use at Harvard station fare collection area also used for cycling adver- tisements
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Recommended Improvements The use of these displays for service advisories is beneficial to customers, but only inasmuch as customers are able to notice and read them as they cycle in the system. Because each piece of content is only shown for about 10 seconds, it is critical that service advisories follow the same visual template as paper service advisories to enhance recognizability. Unlike paper service advisories adhered to station walls, there is also no way to go back to the content unless the pas- senger stands and waits for the display to recycle the content. This is where use of QR codes to the specific service advisory page, clear and simple language, and universal symbology are the most important. Service status should also be reinforced periodi- cally to inform customers whether or not the lines they will be encountering delays elsewhere in the system. Omission of delay information is not suf- ficient to tell customers that there are no delays. Having this information displayed persistently on dedicated screens in passenger information ar- eas also permits customers without smartphones or customers in areas with no cellular coverage the benefit of knowing system status at a glance. The T should also extend the use of print ad- vertising spaces to highlight upcoming capital projects and various under-marketed T ser- vices, such as online CharlieCard management. MassDOT has already taken advantage of this to highlight RMV services. The MTA in New York City has taken to half-car print advertisements to highlight their own capital projects and new services. Paper Signage With a rapidly changing system, paper signs provide a level of offline permanence and relative ease of deployment as compared to vinyl appli- que signage. Today, the MBTA uses this format for elevator and escalator status summaries. In station signage includes signage posted within and outside of fare-controlled zones within sta- tions. While most of this signage exists as vinyl or silk screen printing on aluminum, additional sig- nage has been deployed as plastic A-frame sign Above: Print advertising on Orange Line trains with de- tachable leaflet with QR code and URL soliciting feedback from customers Right: Print advertising on NYC MTA transit cars showcasing The Weekender, an online map changed every weekend to concicely show how construction will affect train service across the system, and soliciting further (polite) customer feedback
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools boards, handwritten and printed paper sheets, and other various makeshift materials. Recommended Improvements Adjacent the customer information display cabinets in the fare collection area, paper sign inserts can be installed for paper that is legal or letter-sized. The T currently uses similar paper holders for elevator and escalator service notices and much larger versions on trains for advertise- ments. This can be part of a larger redesign of the customer information displays that incor- porates digital signage dedicated to passenger information that could also be interactive. Delivering service advisories in this fashion, even printed in color, can not only reduce costs to print but also reduce time to deployment. Further, this reduces the work involved with applying and removing vinyl placards on station walls. Chicago’s CTA has installed these within their stations in conspicuous locations for visibility and consistency. In the event that there is no ser- vice change plan, the CTA uses this to promote its services during major events, such as the US Auto Show. It would also be beneficial to take a full survey of all handwritten signs and integrate as many as possible into templates that can be deployed at short notice. This permits temporary signage to be deployed rapidly, as in the case of a malfunc- tioning turnstile, while still maintaining a consis- tent design and message of professionalism. Clockwise from lower-left: Customer information board at CTA Paulina station platform with dedicated space for printed ser- vice change notices; templated, self-adhesive ‘Out of Order’ sign used by Chicago’s CTA on malfunctioning turnstile readers; unbranded and non-templated printed paper signage at Copley station; handwritten paper signage at Copley station Above: Elevator status printout in the desig- nated status holder on a disused customer service booth at Green Street station
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools On-Board Announcements Announcements are made on-board to notify passengers of train destination, upcoming stop, and occasionally safety reminders. These are important for riders with visual impairment to in- dependently use the system and ease confusion for first-time or infrequent riders. On trains acquired since 1998, most announce- ments are automated and accompanied by visual transcription on internal LED variable message boards. All Green Line vehicles acquired before 1998 are able to use automated announcements made over the trainlined public address system if coupled to a Type 8 car. These automated an- nouncements are triggered by balises secured in between the running rails that a transponder under the train is able to read as it passes over the balise. Buses make automated announcements based on route position determined by GPS through the TransitMaster AVL system. Drivers also have at their disposal various canned messages that they can trigger from this system manually through the TransitMaster console in the operator’s area. Further, in the event of emergency or malfunction of passenger request feature, bus drivers can speak directly into the on-board public address system. Recommended Improvements These on-board announcements occasionally fail to reassure passengers of the destination or next stop in between stations. On buses, the message board is often blank between stops and between slowly scrolling passenger notices. Once a stop has been requested, customers no longer see the name of the upcoming stop, only that the stop has been requested. Additionally, time between stops could be bet- ter utilized to remind passengers of upcom- ing planned service changes. In other systems outside of Boston, operators or conductors take advantage of the time between stations for such announcements. MTA New York City Transit operators and conductors take advantage of long gaps between stations on express trains to make similar reminders about services changes and public safety reminders. The way content is delivered on these signs is inconsistent as well. In station subway announce- ments and onboard train announcements are presented using a pause-scroll method, where the content is presented line by line and pauses in sync with the simultaneously played verbal announcement. Displays on buses use a con- tinuous scroll method, but in order to maintain readability of text in this format, the scrolling speed must remain slow. Further, the speed of scrolling is uncomfortably slow and is the least efficient means of presenting content of the two methods. This means visual presentation of an- nouncements can be truncated or eventually go out of sync with what is being said in the verbal announcements. Social media Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have quickly become the fastest way of reaching customers and disseminating information on a moment-by-moment basis. The MBTA GM ac- count first started tweeting on 3 June 2010. Since then, the MBTA twitter account has moved from @MBTAGM to the @MBTA twitter account, which had been previously unused and held by a third party, and become officially verified with Twitter. The account has generated nearly 8,000 tweets over the past three years and that content is continuing to improve in quality and engage- ment. Management of the account has begun to include monitoring and responding to riders who mention the @MBTA account in their tweets. In the past 3 years, the T has also created a You- Tube account, to which it has posted a number of informative videos on maintenance, snow clear- ance efforts, and safety. Left: First tweet from the MBTA GM Twitter account
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Recommended Improvements | Twitter In spite of recent improvements, the Twitter ac- count still tweets continues to tweet full-length URLs to relevant service status pages. Use of URL concatenation services, especially those offered by social media aggregating tool Hoot- suite, not only save valuable characters for more information within the tweet, but also provide a means of measuring effect impact based on re- corded clicks. Recording this type of telemetry is not available without these special URLs and do not permit reasonable measure for the amount of traffic driven to the MBTA web site from Twitter or other social media networks. This data can and should be used to drive more effective and informative timing and phrasing of future tweets. It may also be beneficial to split the MBTA alerts into various accounts by mode in order to more appropriately target alerts to riders who use these modes. For example, bus operations no- tices would be tweeted by @MBTA_Bus; heavy rail subway and surface line notices by @MBTA_ Transit; commuter rail notices could be retweeted from @MBCR_Info and original notices generated by @MBTA_Rail; and larger projects funded out of the CIP could have updates tweeted through @MBTA_Cap_Constr. Since users are not limited by whom they can subscribe to, this permits the original @MBTA account to focus its use for system-wide notices, reminders, and alerts and reaching out to cus- tomers. This reduces the number of individual alerts during the day to improve clarity of mes- sage and gives greater impact and focus to each tweet sent by the main account. This also doesn’t necessarily increase the amount of work done by people who manage the twitter accounts, since all can be managed in a single place thanks to social media aggregating tools like Hootsuite. Recommended Improvements | Facebook The MBTA does not yet manage an official Face- book page, which would be another means of connecting with riders and disseminating service advisories, construction information, and public meeting notices. Facebook permits greater long- term involvement with riders by permitting casual polling, user sharing on the page, and sharing of whole photo albums, all while still being able to collect important telemetry for measuring the impact of each submission. Recommended Improvements | Blogging A blog hosted on Blogger or WordPress would be an even deeper way to inform or connect with riders over the long-term. While the MBTA does post its own press releases and links on the MBTA web site to articles that have been written by third party press, these blog posts would not necessarily need to be as long and in-depth as some articles and could be posted more fre- quently and casually than MBTA press releases. Many companies keep blogs to give followers an inside look at various things, such as projects in the works or internal perspectives on operations. Above: Many other large transit agencies, such as DC’s WMATA and New York’s MTA, leverage Facebook to reach out and issue service updates
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools This builds trust and an informed pubic over time as readership grows and comes to expect valu- able posts from the blog. Topics of interest could be driven by requests either on the blog itself or through other social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Recommended Improvements | Flickr One of the biggest steps into social networks should be the creation of a Flickr and/or Insta- gram account. Photos of construction from work that instigated a service advisory or general up- dates on capital construction are a highly visible way the T can show the public that it is working for its riders. This is arguably one of the biggest things the MBTA can do to advocate for itself as it assures customers that something visible was done. The fact that work has and is being done may be obvious to those within the MBTA, but polling and general attitude on various networks shows that riders are largely distrustful of the T because they don’t always have a way of seeing improvements as they happen. MassDOT has a Flickr account today, but the account is rarely posted to and tends only to include sporadic construction photos and ‘photo op’ style photos of administrators. The MTA similarly has a Flickr account to which it submits quite regularly with photos of track work and capital construction updates not frequently vis- ible to the public. This is in addition to the suite of photos at highly publicized ground breakings, ribbon cuttings, and ceremonies. While outside the scope of operations information, this helps ‘tell the story’ of the T as Dr. Scott has mentioned is a major objective for her administration. Recommended Improvements | YouTube If a picture is worth a thousand words, videos can speak volumes. The MBTA does have a You- Tube account, but posts are rare and quality is lacking. As of late, the major videos released on the channel have been security footage of riders having accidents on the T, several vertical videos of behind-the-scenes footage during blizzards, and a handful of produced footage. More clips should be produced to be informa- tional and similarly inspire rider interest, such as the Orange Line maintenance update from 2011. The information may have been quite techni- Above: The MBTA photo set within the MassDOT Flickr account Right: The MBTA’s YouTube video submissions; the account is not ‘verified’ with Google as official
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools cal for broader audiences, but it made a good effort of providing an explanation for that years’ frequent failures on the Orange Line fleet. Again, similar videos following up service advisories precipitated by changes can quickly summarize the work that was done and provide riders with deeper and accessible answers for service inter- ruption. Email and SMS T-Alerts T-Alerts came on the scene in 2007 and has seen significant improvements since then, with the recent switch in May 2013 to GovDelivery’s platform offering a great deal more potential for improvement. The MBTA uses GovDelivery’s platform to not only permit its over 50,000 users the ability to filter precisely for which services they will re- ceive notices of delays and service changes. Also added in the past few years has been a filter for notices during different parts of the day and weekends. Permitting customers to tailor the notification service to their needs reduces information fatigue and ideally makes each notice received that much more noticeable and relevant. Similarly, there are various and myriad subscrip- tion lists for MBTA communications and Mass- DOT capital project updates which are being slowly integrated into GovDelivery’s platform. This will permit a common communications platform across MassDOT and the MBTA and the various project teams within. Even more impor- tant, that common platform will also permit better branding and information design of communica- tions for consistency, simplicity, and effective- ness. Recommended Improvements T-Alerts should refer to delays by an incident number. This would ideally tie into a persistent database of reported delays, skipped runs, and service changes that would power a method by which customers can get delay verification notices certifying that they have been affected by a delay. This is a critical sticking point with riders who have been delayed by service and received no forward warning by train staff or from the NextBus data while waiting for a bus curbside. Tokyo Metro company and Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation in Japan are world famous for offering delay certificates at the gate in the incredibly rare cases when their trains are late. While the MBTA is far from providing this level of service, it is falling behind other agencies, such as New York City’s MTA, in providing any delay verification service at all. Beyond delay notifications, MassDOT and MBTA should continue to consolidate and further im- prove alerts through the new GovDelivery ser- vice. Formatting, language, and overall design can be improved to unify service outage notices. Further, delays should be better differentiated from service advisories, which also can be done through improved design of the emails sent through GovDelivery. Differentiation can also come from change in language, which is a more systemic issue of communication. This is more critical in SMS alerts, where customers need to know the pertinence of the alert within the first few words of the text message.
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Accessibility Onboard trains and buses, there is a wealth of signage that is not only verbose, but also does not include any forms of universal symbology that would make such signage more accessible to speakers of foreign languages. Examples of these include operating instructions for emer- gency brakes and emergency intercoms. In addition, many sign plates are not brailled in compliance with ADA stipulations in order to make them accessible to visually impaired or disabled. Emergency Signage A significant amount of all existing emergency signage onboard trains and buses and through- out stations is not fluorescent, posing risk to riders in the event of an emergency situation wherein illumination has been cut. Signs printed on fluorescent materials will glow in low or no light situations. This allows passengers to both see and read these signs for wayfinding or ascer- taining appropriate emergency procedures. As previously mentioned with regard to acces- sibility, signs are often verbose and should be distilled to make them not only efficient, but effective. This is especially true with emergency signage. Current emergency procedures posted onboard trains is typeset in a wide column, with no clear outline of actionable steps. Excessively long lines of type decrease readability and make them more difficult to glean essential content at a glance. In relation to accessibility, emergency signs do not include ‘call to action’ symbology. These are pictographs illustrating the appropriate actions relating to a procedure or piece of equipment. This form of symbology increases accessibility to riders of all ages and languages and is a more efficient and effective means of communicating this information to riders. Variable Message Boards Both onboard and in station, these signs provide an incredibly flexible but relatively simple means of relaying information to riders. In many instanc- es, these digital message boards are not being used effectively onboard buses and trains. On buses, the name of the next stop should be continuously displayed until the bus passes the stop. Currently, when a stop is requested, the request takes over the entire display and leaves passengers with no indication of the name of the upcoming stop. An icon next to the name could serve the purpose of indicating the requested stop without obscuring the stop’s name. On trains, these signs either cycle through too little content or none at all. All signs should cycle (not scroll) through time and date, destination, and next stop information, which should include an arrow on the side of the train that the doors will open. Mid-life renovations for existing stock should include wider, higher resolution LED displays to more effectively convey information to passengers without the need for excessive mes- sage cycling. On trains, these signs either cycle through too little content or none at all. All signs should cycle (not scroll) through time and date, destination, and next stop information, which should include an arrow on the side of the train that the doors will open. Mid-life renovations for existing stock should include wider, higher resolution LED displays to more effectively convey information to passengers without the need for excessive mes- sage cycling. Systemic Issues
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Service Change Notices These signs should be placed inside trains, on ticket vending machines, throughout station inte- riors and around station portals on the affected line as early as three days before service chang- es are to occur. Ideally these should be in heavily trafficked places and in color to further increase conspicuity. Ultimately, customer information areas must be redesigned to accommodate service change notices with a digital signage component to dynamically cycle through notices and adviso- ries. There are many free and open source digital signage solutions that can permit broadcast and management of the content completely in-house. Concerto Digital Signage is one such system. Language and Tone A recurring theme with signage throughout the system is an issue with verbosity. Historically, service change notices posted on the MBTA web site, in trains, and in stations has presented riders with paragraphs of text with emphasis on less important content. This dilutes the message being conveyed and reduces the overall effec- tiveness this signage. Wordiness has greatly improved now that notices are not copied verbatim from press releases. However, this can be taken a step further by building a common library of base text and sym- bology that can be used on all non-permanent, non-wayfinding signage. Delay Verification As previously mentioned, there is a great need to build or make public historical delay notices without requiring a request through the informa- tion through the Freedom of Information Law. These are critical for most rush hour customers whose very livelihoods depend on getting to their destinations on time. Unfortunately, its not always in the MBTA’s power to do so, but in the least the MBTA can provide official delay verification notices for customers who are affected. Capital Project Information Capital project pages are also very inconsistent and lack major figures that are important to gain- ing public trust, such as cost and time to comple- tion. There is no way to uniquely identify a project or often to directly associate a service delay with one of these project pages, unless directly linked to the URL of the site. Further, few of these projects have dedicated ‘plain English’ URLs, such as the project site for the Key Bus Routes Improvement Program: mbta.com/keybusroutes Top: New York City MTA’s delay verification form on their site, which permits access to the last 90 days of delay notices Above: Tokyo Metro company’s site offers current and historical delay notices by line and by time of day with historical information going as far back as over a month
Passenger Communications Report A comprehensive assessment of MBTA rider information tools Conclusion The MBTA has certainly come a long way in com- municating effectively with its riders, much of it driven by a recent renewal of its commitment to customer service and transparency. However, it still has a lot of room for improvement ahead of it. The pace of technological innovation is quickly closing the accessibility gap to inte- grating them as part of the MBTA’s communica- tion solution, but with inaction the T stands to find itself more disconnected from its customers than ever before. The MBTA’s primary mission is to move people, but communication with the public is critical to that mission. With effective communication, a relationship of trust can be built with the public, turning its riders into the most valuable advo- cates for the larger capital projects needed to truly improve the MBTA’s ability to perform its primary mission. About the Author Marc Ebuña is a daily rider of the MBTA and a concerned citizen who also designed the first service advisory template used to notify passen- gers about planned service outages.
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