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MBTA on time at all the wrong times [08 Jan 2008|09:32pm]

Commuter Rail All Lines/Routes running from South Station are experiencing 15-20 minute delays due to right of way maintenance activity.

I've been subscribed to the MBTA's T-Alert service since it started, and it's been entertaining. It's just a pilot, so I expected some snags — and have not been disappointed. There have been empty messages, warnings with timestamps hours later than the problems their texts refer to and warnings that are less far off but still too late to be useful. Some of these problems are undoubtedly due to T-Mobile's notoriously bad MMS delivery (what's this "Twitter" thing?). There have been plenty that seem to be working right too, but they haven't come at times that have affected my plans.

Tonight at work I got a message saying that all the commuter trains passing through South Station were being delayed by 15-20 minutes due to "right-of-way maintenance activity" (I think this is bureaucratese for "CSX is screwing us again"). It came at 6:56pm, and to be safe I leave for my train at 7:00pm — the train leaves at 7:15pm. So here was a chance for the warning to be useful. I hung out at my desk for a bit longer, and headed over to the station at about 7:10pm.

I arrived just as the train was pulling away — exactly on time. There was no crowd in the station and no sign of delay on any of the lines. In fact, things seemed to be running better than usual.

A false alert is much worse than a nonalert. I don't think I'll be changing my plans by the warnings during the pilot anymore. Worse things have happened — I'm just stuck at Buddha's Delight eating delicious vegan food.

An hour and a half later, no all-clear message has been issued yet, despite the fact that the train I caught after missing the initial one also departed on time. Providing an effective alert system like this is a pretty big challenge. I'm glad they're trying but they've got a lot of work left to do.

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