Army of NYC commuters feeding new transit alert services
Looking to avoid a stalled train or a dangerous bike lane? Your fellow commuters want to help.
A small army of impassioned travelers is feeding Twitter and other digital services with updates about rail and road conditions. Thousands of travelers have subscribed to the real-time updates on their cell phones and BlackBerries. The alerts help followers to switch commuting plans when trouble strikes.
It's very, very helpful, said Irka Seng, 43, an Upper West Side filmmaker who follows Metro-North updates for her commute to White Plains.
A mob of BlackBerries powers Clever Commute, a free service that tracks 30 buses and regional rail lines operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NJ Transit. The service shoots out alerts (and ads) to more than 5,000 subscribers divided by line.
The large pool of informants makes the service timely, with WCBS news radio subscribing to Clever Commute for its transit reporting.
We are generally faster, more detailed and free of the [transit agency] bias, said Josh Crandall, the company's founder, who is looking to expand the service to city subways.In a different spin, one upstart service parlays transit alerts with dating notices. Launched last week, subwayalerts.com also features gossip and city transportation blogs.
If you see someone you like, or you're running late, it will be useful, said Vincent Mota, 31, a Williamsburg designer who helped found the service.
As for bicyclists, commuters frustrated by the icy conditions on city bridges started the NYC Bridge Report on Twitter in January. Nearly 200 subscribers follow the feed about road conditions, ticketing and non sequiturs such as lost eyeglasses.
The MTA also sends e-mails and text messages about service delays to more than 85,000 straphangers. The agency has delivered more than 39 million messages since November, firing off a record 130 alerts during a blizzard last month.
But some commuters complain that the MTA messages don't provide enough detail or alternate routes. Clever Commute has also trumped the MTA's response times in several incidences.
No Power. No power on all 4 tracks - sitting in Cos Cob with another NY-bound train, wrote a Metro-North commuter about 30 minutes before the official alert was dispatched.
Aaron Donovan, a MTA spokesman, said they welcomed the additional services, but emphasized that transit authorities verify their updates before sending them.
You can be confident that the information is accurate, Donovan said.
Smoothing the commute
All of these digital commuting services are free:
Clever Commute: A peer-driven network dispatching emailing service alerts about 30 bus and regional rail lines operated by the MTA and NJ Transit. clevercommute.com
MTA: Sends out texts and e-mails about unplanned and scheduled service changes for individual lines. www.mymtaalerts.com
New York City Bridge Report: A Twitter feed for cyclists about the conditions on city bridges and bike lanes. twitter.com/nycbridgereport
Subwayalerts.com: An e-mail service packaging personals and gossip with city subways updates