Meet the man behind the ‘MBTA Alerts!’ Twitter account, which is shutting down
After four years of keeping Boston T riders informed, the web wizard behind the rogue MBTA Alerts! Twitter account has reached the end of the line.
Fred LeBlanc, an Amesbury resident and former “angry commuter,” started the account in 2009 after an unfortunate incident on the commuter rail.
“There was a Miley Cyrus concert that completely destroyed North Station,”said LeBlanc, who used to work in the Financial District, and often faced two-hour commuter rail trips between Amesbury and Boston.
“I remember just running to my train all the time; then one night I got there and all the trains were delayed by 40 minutes, and no one knew about it. It made me really mad. While I was standing there, I registered the account, then went home and figured out how to do it.”
LeBlanc offered an explanation on his blog about how “robots” have been running the account, saying “All that @mbta_alerts did was read the MBTA’s Alerts RSS feed and post most of it automatically up to Twitter. I filtered out a couple of messages automatically.”
He has racked up 9,025 followers since 2009, many of whom had no idea the twitter account was not affiliated with the transit agency.
“I’d get yelled at all the time for horrible service and ruining people’s lives,” LeBlanc told Metro. “A lot of those tweets are sent to me and and the @MBTAgm account. I don’t e
xpect people to read the (Twitter) description, so I never really wrote back because I knew they had no idea.”
The MBTA’s new (official) T-Alerts system spawned LeBlanc’s decision to shut down the twitter account: “Recently, the MBTA updated their alerts system to be way more detailed about delays. This is a great thing; now you can have a much better idea of what to expect. The downside is that virtually every post is too long for Twitter now. That’s why the account just stopped tweeting: Every alert is being filtered out.”
But LeBlanc has no complaints about the new system making it impossible for MBTA Alerts! to function. The new official alert system, he said, is a big improvement.
“A big complaint that I saw a lot was if the Red Line was delayed going this way, or that way, people would say, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ The new system seems to take care of all of those things. I think that’s better,” he said.
Since breaking the “robot” voice on Twitter Wednesday and announcing he will no longer be sending out T alerts, LeBlanc’s followers have been reaching out to express gratitude and ask for the alerts to keep coming.
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