MBTA Advisory Board to launch commute rating site

The MBTA Advisory Board, an independent advisory board that works toward the improvement of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system, is developing a smartphone app that will allow riders to rate their experiences. PHOTO  ILLUSTRATION BY ERIN BILLINGS/DAILY FREE PRESS CONTRIBUTOR

The MBTA Advisory Board, an independent advisory board that works toward the improvement of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system, is developing a smartphone app that will allow riders to rate their experiences. PHOTO PHOTO BY ERIN BILLINGS/DAILY FREE PRESS CONTRIBUTOR

The MBTA Advisory Board is preparing to launch a smartphone-accessible website to allow Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority riders to rate their commutes.

The site, designed to provide the MBTA with information to improve its services, is currently in a beta test phase, and is expected to launch within the next few weeks, said Paul Regan, executive director of the Advisory Board.

“The idea is that typical commuters usually experience the ups and downs of the system, and we want them to be able to communicate that to us,” he said. “We will do our analysis and make it available to other people to do their analysis as well, with the hope that ultimately, this will have a positive effect on this industry.”

The MBTA Advisory Board, independent of the MBTA itself, represents T riders in cities and towns across Massachusetts in which the transit service operates. The website will allow commuters to record their MBTA experiences day by day, and the Board will eventually compile and publish the data collected, Regan said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said customer feedback of T service is highly valued.

“Feedback helps us meet our goal to provide safe, reliable, clean and accessible service,” he said in an email. “All comments are carefully reviewed by our Customer Support Group. Senior managers also review all of the comments received because questions and ideas help make the T better.”

Pesaturo said customers often communicate feedback to the MBTA through the service’s Twitter handle, @MBTA.

“Social media has become a valuable tool with almost 77,000 customers following us,” he said. “Through Twitter, the MBTA receives timely information from customers that we can respond to quickly.”

Regan said the Advisory Board wanted to create a tool that would be convenient and accessible by MBTA customers.

“We wanted to design something that is quick and easy, that people could do during their commute if they have a smart phone, [and] if they don’t have a smartphone, they can do it from a computer,” he said.

The process of chronicling a rider’s experience on the T is streamlined and simple, Regan said. The mobile site allows riders to rate their journey and to provide additional commentary and feedback.

“Once you access the webpage, you put in your preferences so you don’t have to be telling over and over again who you are and what you do,” he said. “It will acknowledge your preferences and allow you to put in the legs of your journey in a very fast, efficient manner. We also have places where you can add in your own specific comments and concerns.”

In addition to analyzing the data collected from the site, Regan said the Advisory Board would send a weekly survey to registered users of the site.

“We will be going through feedback on a regular basis,” he said. “We want to see how many people sign up and use it. Once we have a good number, it probably makes sense to accumulate data on a monthly basis and make it available for analysis, but we will have the capacity to do it either weekly or daily if we have enough riders.”

Several residents said they are optimistic about the potential benefits the new site will provide to patrons of the MBTA.

Robert Collins, 25, of Allston, said the site aligns with a trend in media allowing individuals to publicly review their experiences.

“It sounds a lot like Yelp culture,” he said. “It could help people to report issues and improve customer service.”

Shanice Price, 24, of Brighton, said she would not take advantage of the site, though she does use an MBTA bus to commute to work.

“I’ve only ever reported really serious issues,” she said. “I wouldn’t be into just writing down and recording my every day experiences.”

Rebecca DiMattia, 33, of Jamaica Plain, said she rides the T every day and looks forward to utilizing the mobile site.

“It will definitely help the MBTA, especially if people can give feedback anonymously. Sometimes people might not necessarily want to say to the driver how they’re feeling,” she said. “Unfortunately, people may use it to do a lot of complaining, but sometimes it is helpful to give some honest feedback.”

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