Sound Transit recently hired an employee to deal with incident response and provide passengers with service status alerts from the Link Control Center. The rider alerts are better than nothing but sometimes you can have days like this or this when the number of rider alerts becomes overwhelming.
Scott Gutierrez at the PI reports on the recent proliferation of Link rider alerts notifying passengers of train delays. Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray explains in Gutierrez’s article:
The agency still is setting protocols on when mass alerts are necessary and when updating electronic signs at boarding platforms is enough to get the word out. A few times recently, alerts were issued about problems that were handled quickly and had minimal effect on service, he said.
On Monday morning, for example, an alert was issued about a mechanical problem that caused delays of six minutes to one train and three minutes to the other.
“That’s why we’re seeing a little more frequent rider alerts. We’re working out some of the kinks as to what rises to the level of needing a rider alert,” Gray said. “We probably don’t need an alert if it only means a five-minute delay.”
The problem is not Sound Transit providing too much information; it is Sound Transit providing the information in the wrong format. Having real-time train arrival information at stations (and elsewhere) solves the problem of issuing too many alerts for minor delays. Instead of posting an alert that trains are delayed 6 minutes, the delay is simply reflected in the predicted arrival times at each station for each affected train trip. If the delay gets severe, then broadcast an alert. While some might want to know why their train is being delayed, what everyone wants to know is how long the wait will be, which is useful information even under normal conditions.