MBTA rolls out new and improved T-Alerts service

MBTA Public Information Officer Brian McKeon sends out notifications from the MBTA Command Center using the new T-Alerts system. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
MBTA Public Information Officer Brian McKeon sends out notifications from the MBTA Command Center using the new T-Alerts system. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is rolling out a more detailed and streamlined  T-Alerts service to keep its customers informed about service disruptions.

The improved system goes into effect Tuesday, offering the T’s 1.3 million daily riders faster access to more detailed service information.

Chief Technology Officer Gary Foster said the new system “gets right to the point.”

“This is much more granular compared to the original system. We are able to be more specific,” said Foster, adding that the changes were based on feedback from T customers.

“We’ve had a number of complaints about the existing system in terms of timeliness. Originally the data we sent out was raw. It wasn’t as clean as it is now. In the last two years we’ve made tremendous improvements in the quality of the data in general what we send to customers and to our developers. Now we’re taking it to the next level.”

T-Alerts will continue to be listed on the Service pages of the T’s website, with visual enhancements made to page layout and format for clarity, ease-of-use, and reader-friendliness.

Direct service advisory notifications via email and text messages will receive improvements with more reliable delivery times through the MBTA’s new partnership with GovDelivery, a leader in public digital communication. Service alerts and notifications will be clearer and more detailed with additional information regarding specific trip times, service schedule changes, and distinct directional, branch, and station communications.

The existing system, launched in 2007, has proved popular with roughly 65,000 current subscribers who receive an email or text message to let them know when their bus or train is running late or if there’s some other disruption to service.

Public Information Officer Brian McKeon is responsible for manning the T-Alerts desk from the MBTA’s control center on High Street, where employees work around the clock to monitor the agency’s elaborate transportation network.

“On the previous (alert) system, we wouldn’t be able to specifically list the stops that would be affected by a delay,” said McKeon, “This new (system) allows us to pick as many stops as we need to inform customers about a delay.”

However, the new T-Alerts system is built around data structures that enable sharing, encouraging  third-party development and uses emerging standards introduced by Google in 2011. The MBTA has become a data-sharing leader in 2009, rolling out real-time bus data directly for developers. Over 50 third-party apps use MBTA data, according to T officials.

Customers must sign up for the new system, as the old one is being discontinued.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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