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Old 08-14-2019, 03:29 AM   #6381
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

They had a rendering of the improved park Street in the GM report from this meeting, linked above I believe. It means a complete replacement of the signage with the new signage they've been rolling out for a few years, with the more universal symbols and standardized icons. It will also be paired with lighting replacements at some stations but for several stations thats a two part thing.

The picture in the report shows the horrendous signage that is Park St GL WB, which is simply put terrible. Signage for the red line all over the GL entrance, unclear where to stand for different branches of GL, unclear where the redline is etc
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Old 08-14-2019, 02:02 PM   #6382
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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Originally Posted by HelloBostonHi View Post
They had a rendering of the improved park Street in the GM report from this meeting, linked above I believe. It means a complete replacement of the signage with the new signage they've been rolling out for a few years, with the more universal symbols and standardized icons. It will also be paired with lighting replacements at some stations but for several stations thats a two part thing.

The picture in the report shows the horrendous signage that is Park St GL WB, which is simply put terrible. Signage for the red line all over the GL entrance, unclear where to stand for different branches of GL, unclear where the redline is etc
The render does look pretty nice. I really wish they would add an LED countdown for the red line on the green line level, though (maybe above the stairs?) - would help to know if its time to kick it into high gear to catch an Ashmont or Braintree train.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:07 PM   #6383
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

Why does the T think that service delay text messages that include a specific problem issue are helpful?

I don't really care that the crap Red Line car has a stuck brake, or a broken door, or a blown traction motor. The car is busted and not moving.

Can't they just be honest and say "The Red Line is delayed 15 minutes due to continued poor maintenance, and a broken train at Alewife."
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:28 PM   #6384
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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Why does the T think that service delay text messages that include a specific problem issue are helpful?

I don't really care that the crap Red Line car has a stuck brake, or a broken door, or a blown traction motor. The car is busted and not moving.

Can't they just be honest and say "The Red Line is delayed 15 minutes due to continued poor maintenance, and a broken train at Alewife."
Riders requested it.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:32 PM   #6385
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

^ Riders requested it, including me. Of course, I want yet more detail, especially on the commuter rail when delays exceed (say) 20 minutes. Riders deserve to know why they are late. Ideally, there would be more transparency about the cause of the issue so riders know who to complain/advocate to. But, I suspect that’s a pipe dream on my part.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:48 PM   #6386
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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Riders requested it.
^Yes, this is true as I recall it. That said, I don't think this simple statement actually captures the real situation.

Anyone feel free to correct me, but here's my play-by-play analysis of what really happened.
- - - - - - -

What the T was doing circa 2015:
"WE ARE EXPERIENCING MODERATE DELAYS..."

Riders, after realizing that "MODERATE DELAYS" could mean anything from 5min to 48min and was fairly useless information, said: "Can you please actually tell us something meaningful about what is going on and how it will impact me?"

The reality was:
The T, in most cases, does not know how long it will take to resolve stuff. So they took a page from the playbook called "malicious compliance with exactly what your stakeholders are asking for".

Now, circa 2019, such compliance takes the form of:
"DUE TO A FAILED #2 TRACTION MOTOR, ERROR CODE 54367, WE ARE MOBILIZING EQUIPMENT TO MOVE VEHICLE #15324 AND ARE REPOSITIONING NEW VEHICLES TO RESUME ROUTE TRAFFIC, ANTICIPATING 5-48 MINUTES OF DELAY"

Summary:
The messages are just as useless, they are now just longer.
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:31 PM   #6387
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

I'll take the "malicious compliance". Does the additional information truly change the situation, I guess it won't. But information and transparency has value in-and-of itself. Weren't y'all annoyed back then when the delays happens and all we get the exact same vague statements? How they will (sometimes) announce the exact issue and now y'all want them to stop?

Information is information. And prefer to know more rather than know less regardless how much I can act on it.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:34 PM   #6388
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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I'll take the "malicious compliance". Does the additional information truly change the situation, I guess it won't. But information and transparency has value in-and-of itself. Weren't y'all annoyed back then when the delays happens and all we get the exact same vague statements? How they will (sometimes) announce the exact issue and now y'all want them to stop?

Information is information. And prefer to know more rather than know less regardless how much I can act on it.
But you don't actually "know more". You know some excuse. I guess I am surprised anyone finds that comforting?

I think the kind of message people were hoping for is something like:

Red Line is experiencing delays of 15 minutes due to a door problem at Alewife. This problem should be resolved in 20 minutes and normal service should resume at 6:45 PM.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:50 PM   #6389
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

I like detail. It gives the impression that they're tracking root causes (and will eventually have the numbers to fix those with the greatest benefit/cost ratio)
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:05 PM   #6390
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

I find it interesting to see the different POV's around the T's communication and competence with repairs. There's one cohort that falls into "they're trying to make things better but issues remain complicated. Hopefully the planned improvements stick". The other is the more conspiratorial "they're trying to surreptitiously cut service and deliberately obfuscate. Things will continue to get worse as a new normal."
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:44 AM   #6391
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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I find it interesting to see the different POV's around the T's communication and competence with repairs. There's one cohort that falls into "they're trying to make things better but issues remain complicated. Hopefully the planned improvements stick". The other is the more conspiratorial "they're trying to surreptitiously cut service and deliberately obfuscate. Things will continue to get worse as a new normal."
No, I am in neither of those camps.

I am in the "rooting strongly for the T; really wanting the T to succeed; NOT defeatist about it...BUT, have not seen enough evidence yet that they've got the right competencies; the right management; the right funding...and until I do, want to continue holding them to the fire (so as to prompt more improvement and positive change); not celebrating prematurely; and calling BS when I see it...but all the while consistently advocating to all my friends to stick with the T through tough times"-camp.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:48 AM   #6392
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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No, I am in neither of those camps.

I am in the "rooting strongly for the T; really wanting the T to succeed; NOT defeatist about it...BUT, have not seen enough evidence yet that they've got the right competencies; the right management; the right funding...and until I do, want to continue holding them to the fire (so as to prompt more improvement and positive change); not celebrating prematurely; and calling BS when I see it...but all the while consistently advocating to all my friends to stick with the T through tough times"-camp.
Great, that's a good bridge.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:49 AM   #6393
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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No, I am in neither of those camps.

I am in the "rooting strongly for the T; really wanting the T to succeed; NOT defeatist about it...BUT, have not seen enough evidence yet that they've got the right competencies; the right management; the right funding...and until I do, want to continue holding them to the fire (so as to prompt more improvement and positive change); not celebrating prematurely; and calling BS when I see it...but all the while consistently advocating to all my friends to stick with the T through tough times"-camp.
I am firmly in this camp as well. I really want them to succeed. But at times, I feel they are their own worst enemies.

They also desperately need real communications specialists who understand how to concisely communicate information in easily digested form. T communications are way too text based, not making use of graphics, easily understood symbols, etc. Good communications experts can say way more with much less distraction.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:27 AM   #6394
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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I am firmly in this camp as well. I really want them to succeed. But at times, I feel they are their own worst enemies.

They also desperately need real communications specialists who understand how to concisely communicate information in easily digested form. T communications are way too text based, not making use of graphics, easily understood symbols, etc. Good communications experts can say way more with much less distraction.
This is what I was saying two days ago — the T needs a brand and signage for every project they are doing. City of Boston has “Building a Better Boston” signs on every project that’s city funded now; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did the same. Date mentioned the T finally has someone who understands communications, but so far, that has not translated into anything visible on the ground (the websites are excellent, now, though).

There needs to be a consistent slogan and subslogan - eg, Making a Better MBTA subheading “Your Tax Dollars at Work”, on big white signs that have 4-6 bullet points and 1-2 images of what work is being done. For complicated and “boring” stuff like track work, they could simply have a single bullet point on what’s wrong the tracks and then show pics of new tracks being put in... or something... you get the drift. These signs should be all over any station that’s the site of, or near the site of any work.

I noticed in the UK recently that they take things a step further; when I visited sites that received public funding, there were always big signs that broke down the exact amounts funded and the sources and acts under which the funding was received... which was nice, because it was transparent as well as informative.
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Old 08-15-2019, 11:38 AM   #6395
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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I'll take the "malicious compliance". Does the additional information truly change the situation, I guess it won't. But information and transparency has value in-and-of itself...

Information is information. And prefer to know more rather than know less regardless how much I can act on it.
Ant, sure, transparency = good; information = good.

But leaving it at that is setting way too low of a bar for the T. The problem with "malicious compliance" is that it is tied to a "see, we checked that box. we're done with that, now moving to the next complaint" type of mentality. It allows Steve Poftak to "manage up" by saying things like "customers raised 20 issues, and we closed 20 issues" (I am not saying Steve is actually doing that here; this issue pre-dates him - but I am pointing to the risk of such thinking).

As others have chimed in: no, all information is not equally good/valuable.

What riders need is the best answer the T can provide to the question of "how is this situation going to impact me?" And, more specifically: "should I or should I not continue to stand here waiting on this platform?"
These riders are real people. Most of them are trying to get to their jobs and/or important appointments. They need to know whether to get off that platform asap and find an alternate mode, OR, to send that timely text/email/call to their boss about being late, OR, to arrange for the babysitter to stay late, etc. REAL. FREAKING. STUFF.

The design of a communication scheme needs to specifically address the needs of its recipients. In this case: the T's best advice to stay on that platform, or not?...to make that call, or not?

For starters, I'd prefer a scheme that:
1) Does provide insight into cause of issue, but categorically: vehicle/mechanical, track/signal, medical issue, police action...probably that's enough; maybe 1 or 2 more. This lends transparency to the question of: was this T's poor performance or something outside their control.
2) They should provide status as to whether the corrective action path has been established or not. Why? Because it is understandable for them to not yet be able to provide a time estimate if the issue isn't done being diagnosed...yet we should expect a best-guess time estimate if the issue has been diagnosed and corrective action identified.
3) Depending on the answer to #2, they should provide a time estimate that's accurate to within +/5min and they should continuously update the estimate.

The scheme would look something like this:
"We expect a 10 minute delay in service due to a mechanical issue with a train at Downtown Crossing. The issue has been identified and is in the process of being resolved."
OR,
"We are facing an unknown delay due to an unresolved issue tied to police action at Park Street. Updates to follow as soon as possible."
ETC.

This at least gives the rider more agency to make the best possible plans for their personal/work lives.

I apologize that my snarky post about "malicious compliance" above was a bit hyperbolized, but in reality we still see things like:
On the green line: "train is stopped 5 stops away"...wtf does that mean? Is that OK? (e.g., it is normal for the train to be stopped now? If so, OK. But the operative question is: should I or shouldn't I continue to wait here?).
On the orange and red: arrival: 20+ minutes (really?...well, if that's longer than the scheduled headway, would you mind telling us whats up? Because if it's really just 20-25 min, then at least I can make an informed decision about that. But if 20+ min means "who the eff knows" then that's a different story. I feel like they don't post "24 min" because that looks embarrassing/ridiculous, but REAL transparency puts customer's needs ahead of that - in fact, that's kind of the whole point of transparency).

I have such high standards not because I am defeatist/conspiracy theorist about the T, but because I truly care. I don't want them to bleed riders to Uber/Lyft. Or for people to face ramifications at their jobs because of this.

Last edited by bigpicture7; 08-15-2019 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 08-15-2019, 03:11 PM   #6396
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

Completely agree with bigpicture7. They need to provide enough information so commuters can adjust their routes for what best works for their commute.
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Old 08-15-2019, 03:14 PM   #6397
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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Completely agree with bigpicture7. They need to provide enough information so commuters can adjust their routes for what best works for their commute.
I second the agreement with bigpicture7. The information needs to be actionable for T riders.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:57 PM   #6398
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

I heard plenty of time of "signal issue" or "mechanical issue". I can categorize the issue myself, sometimes hearing the exact issue means I can get a guess on the severity of the issue too. Meanwhile telling me the vague "signal issue" means a whole larger level of vagueness that leaves me guess a lot higher degree.

If you want to hear if someone is on the issue and time estimates, that's fine with me. I think the issue why they don't already is I'm pretty sure they just don't know it either. It's hard to give a time estimate when it involves something like getting a guy on site. Or know when will a train to arrive to push. Airlines with all their logistics systems have a hard time. I have a feeling what y'all are advocating will just make the MBTA more opaque. And more opagueness mean less agency.


Ultimately, you know what would be the real solution? If we don't needs these alerts so much at all. Having a well-crafted communication mechanism and ample coordination to have guys on site and thus clear time estimations isn't needed if disruptions just isn't that common in the first place.
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Old 08-16-2019, 08:42 AM   #6399
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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This is what I was saying two days ago — the T needs a brand and signage for every project they are doing. City of Boston has “Building a Better Boston” signs on every project that’s city funded now; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did the same. Date mentioned the T finally has someone who understands communications, but so far, that has not translated into anything visible on the ground (the websites are excellent, now, though).

There needs to be a consistent slogan and subslogan - eg, Making a Better MBTA subheading “Your Tax Dollars at Work”, on big white signs that have 4-6 bullet points and 1-2 images of what work is being done. For complicated and “boring” stuff like track work, they could simply have a single bullet point on what’s wrong the tracks and then show pics of new tracks being put in... or something... you get the drift. These signs should be all over any station that’s the site of, or near the site of any work.

I noticed in the UK recently that they take things a step further; when I visited sites that received public funding, there were always big signs that broke down the exact amounts funded and the sources and acts under which the funding was received... which was nice, because it was transparent as well as informative.
"Your Tax Dollars at Work" is a more comforting message when the agency in question has its act together.

I do agree that London's system does a much better job of informing the riders of whats going on, though. I remember being impressed that they rarely obfuscated anything when I was there, and gave people timely info.
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:11 AM   #6400
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Re: General MBTA Discussion Thread

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I am firmly in this camp as well. I really want them to succeed. But at times, I feel they are their own worst enemies.
The orange line cars are a great example of this. At any point they could have done a long interview with any of our TV stations, inviting them in and giving a detailed explanation of what the 9+ months of delays have been - describing what needs to be fixed/tested. Instead we get a generic "software issues".

Then they have a big press conference putting the new train in service. Only to pull it 3 hours later - and only here in archboston do people surmise they are still working out the bugs. Why not, at this press conference, say "it will only be on line 3-4 hours a day as we continue testing and working out small kinks"??

sigh
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