|Embargoed for release:||For more information, contact:|
|Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 6:00 a.m.||Gene Russianoff
(212) 349-6460 or (917) 575-9434
Group Issues First-Ever Analysis of Electronic MTA Alerts
Reviews 1,000s of Email Alerts Sent to Riders in 2011 About Significant Incidents That Often Generated Delays
2 and 5 Had Most Number of Alerts of Delay-Generating Incidents; G the Fewest
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today issued its first-ever analysis of MTA electronic alerts, which told riders of significant incidents that often generated subway delays.
The review found that in 2011, the 2 and 5 lines had the most number of alerts of significant incidents that often generate delays with 251 and 247 respectively (or 8% each of 2,967).
The G line had the fewest with 45 (or 2% of a total of 2,967). (See Table One.)
The MTA deems an incident significant and instructs its personnel to send an alert to riders for any incidents that will result in a significant service impact that is expected to last 8 to 10 minutes or more, according to transit officials.
The Campaign analyzed thousands of real-time alerts the MTA sent to riders who subscribe to the agencys Email and Text Message Alert System. The alerts are intended to provide up-to-the-minute information about whether a subway line is experiencing a significant delay-generating incident and whether riders should consider taking an alternate route.1
The Straphangers Campaign reviewed 4,937 alerts issued by the MTA in calendar year 2011. These included alerts for 20 subway lines, but not any of the shuttles. The Straphangers Campaign removed irrelevant data, leaving 4,580 alerts. (See attached methodology.)
The group then classified the electronic alert incidents into two categories.
The first was controllable, including such things as signal or mechanical problems. The second was uncontrollable, such as police activity or sick passenger.
The Campaign concluded it was not fair to hold transit officials accountable for many of these uncontrollable incidents. As a result, the Campaign eliminated all 1,613 alerts of uncontrollable incidents 35% of the total 4,580 alerts.
In 2011, riders received alerts of significant controllable incidents almost five times every seven-day week on the 2 and 5 lines, while riders on the G had significant incidents less than one time a week, said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.
Some riders will see this as a poor level of performance. Others may grudgingly view this amount of incidents as tolerable. Either way, 2011 will serve as a baseline for future years, showing whether significant incidents have gotten worse, better or stayed the same, said Cate Contino, coordinator for the Campaign.
The alert data raised questions that needed further information to find an answer, according to the group. These included:
The MTA launched its Text Messaging and Email Alert System in late November of 2008. Riders can sign up to receive these alerts by going to http://www.mymtaalerts.com. The service is free. More than 76,000 individuals currently subscribe to the MTAs alerts for subway delays.
Russianoff noted that the electronic alerts for significant incidents were one of several important MTA initiatives designed to provide riders with more real-time information about their commutes, such as countdown clocks.
Russianoff went on to say that incident alerts are important for riders making transit decisions regularly, who rely on the accuracy of the alerts.
The MTA also provides electronic alerts for New York City buses, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North and the bridges and tunnels operated by the MTA. This analysis looked only at subway alerts.
MTA New York City Transit provided the Straphangers Campaign with descriptions of the process of issuing real-time electronic alerts of incidents. These are in an August 2011 letter from MTA New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast and a December 2011 directive from Transits Rail Control Center. (See attachments.)
The Straphangers Campaign concluded from these New York City Transit documents that while there is no automatic determination of whether an incident is significant, in each case New York City Transit personnel are making the same judgment. And that is whether a incident is significant enough to warrant generating a text or email message to the general public.
The Straphangers Campaign is posting the spreadsheet containing the data for alerts on our website in the hope that other researchers and application developers make good use of the data.
1 Transit officials explained that while many significant incidents lead to sizeable delays, not all do. For example, some sick passenger incidents are lengthy, some are not. MTA alerts do not measure the duration of the incident.