Chapell & Associates

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mobile phones on subways

A coalition of lawmakers is calling for the MTA to enable cell phone usage in NYC subways. This move is in the wake of last week's mini-monsoon which crippled the city's subway and train service.

The lawmakers argue that the MTA needs to do a better job of communicating to riders in the event of a natural or man-made emergency, such as inclement weather or terrorist attack.

"What happened this week with the meltdown of the subway system is clearly an example of how the MTA needs to do more to keep it's so-called customers connected,” said (NYC Councilman John Liu.

I completely agree with the basic premise. The MTA should be in a much better position to communicate with riders, as should the other other service authorities. But I'm confused how enabling cell phone access is going to help facilitate that communication.

Allow me to provide an example.

The entire city was brought to its knees by last week's storms. My girlfriend, upon getting to the L train in Brooklyn, found out that it wasn't operating. So she took a car service to Union Square so she could take a subway up to her job at Times Square. But when she got to Union Square, she found out that the subways weren't running there either.

I looked at the MTA website a number of times between 7:30 and 8am. And while the MTA site listed a few minor service outages as a result of the weather, there was nothing there that would have led me to believe that damn near the entire system had been shut down. Why wasn't the MTA website accurate? And what good would it have done subway riders to receive SMS messages from the MTA if the information in those messages was equally inaccurate?

Seems to me that lawmakers ought to be calling for the MTA to have the right information before worrying about who has access to that information.

Maybe the MTA could have whomever is in charge of each subway line communicate with their webmasters in the event of an emergency. Perhaps MTA employees could provide this information. Maybe the MTA could enable subway riders to call / email the MTA with service outages. (Although I really can't understand why subway riders would have access to this information before the MTA knows about it.)

Talk about putting the cart before the horse...


posted by Alan on Monday, August 13, 2007

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