Friday, January 9, 2015

New RIOC Everbridge Community Notification System Needs Improvement Says Resident - Better Communications Between Tram And MTA F Train Subway Station Needed Too

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) recently established a new community notification system.

Image From RIOC

RIOC President Charlene Indelicato reported November 22:
 ... This past week, RIOC launched an improvement to the RIOC Advisories electronic alert system, upgrading the former email-only notification system to Everbridge Platform, one of the leaders in critical communications systems in the United States. Everbridge uses the most advanced cloud-based technologies and allows text alerts and voice messaging in addition to traditional email notifications. The new system also allows subscribers to choose the kind of alerts they’d like to receive, such as traffic alerts, special event notifications, RIOC facility updates and more....
Roosevelt Island resident Janet Falk reports today on difficulties with RIOC's new notification system. Ms. Falk, an editor/writer of more than 100 meeting announcements distributed annually to 16,000 members of a global professional association, thinks the RIOC Advisories need improvement, as does communication between the MTA, RIOC and the Tram personnel. Here are her observations:
Like many residents, I subscribe to the RIOC Advisory system to keep informed of news and schedule changes that affect our daily lives on Roosevelt Island. The 12/22/14 announcement that the Sportspark pool was closed saved me a trip and instead I worked out in the gym downstairs.

There have been numerous complaints that RIOC was mangling its prior system of announcements and, although specific and helpful recommendations that were user-centered were made, RIOC made an unusual decision. Instead of implementing the suggestions and making improvements in quality control and supervision of the decentralized announcement system, RIOC apparently pulled the plug and now, upon installing its new advisory system, decided not to provide information in some cases.

In its desire to serve the community, RIOC advises us to look elsewhere for information, so as not to be accused of ineptitude or redundancy, as follows:

At 8:52 am Thursday, the platform of the Tram was packed to the gills. After I passed through the southern turnstile, Greg Paravati, the Tram operator, told me that the subway was not working. "We'll take as many as we can on the Tram and then leave right away," he said.

After the ultra-crowded Tram pulled away towards Manhattan, I checked my email and saw a RIOC advisory dated 9:00 am.

Image From RIOC

It could not have been more vague or unhelpful.

"Please be advised that the MTA has issued a service advisory for the F train, which may affect travel plans. Please plan your travel accordingly and visit or call 511 for more information."

What is the MTA advisory? How does it affect Manhattan-bound or Queens-bound service or both? For today or for several days?

The RIOC advisory creates confusion and prompts questions with no answers in sight, except one: annoyance. The RIOC advisory points me to an external website and asks me to make a phone call, instead of providing a potential solution.

Why did it not say something like this:

"Due to the MTA's service advisory for the F train, the Tram will operate on an accelerated schedule until normal train service is restored."

This proposed advisory references the stated announcement, offers a solution, provides a time limit and is user friendly. There is no question to be asked; the subway is down, use the Tram for the time being to get you to another subway line. The Tram schedule has been modified to accommodate the increased number of passengers for now.

For what it's worth, I already contacted RIOC a few weeks ago about the non-informative communications and was told they have decided on this new approach of referring subscribers to external sources of information.

Obviously, this semi-advisory is less work for the staff, it protects them from making mistakes and it avoids duplication of an existing service from the MTA.

Service to Island residents is not a consideration, as is the case all too often.

Consider in comparison the attitude of the Tram personnel. Upon seeing droves of commuters approaching the Tram station from the west, Paravati asked a resident what was happening. When he learned that there was no subway service, he immediately conferred with his supervisor. The supervisor authorized the suspension of the usual Tram schedule and a shift to Load and Go. Based on unofficial information from riders, the Tram operators followed procedure to respond to a near-emergency situation and provide service to residents.

On Friday, Paravati informally discussed the situation with me. In the past, he has spoken with the MTA personnel at the Roosevelt Island subway station and pointed out the inadequacy of communication when service is interrupted. Often, passengers enter the turnstile and proceed to the platform, only to learn that there is no service. Many times, there is NO SIGN on the door indicating service has been suspended. When these passengers re-trace their steps, they may ask the clerk for a paper transfer slip. Unfortunately, the Tram turnstile does NOT accept the paper transfer slip provided by the subway clerk, only a Metrocard.

Moreover, Paravati told me that although the Tram personnel have requested communication from the subway station managers in the event of service interruptions, like the one on Thursday morning, they do not have a formal and authorized method of communication. Therefore, it is only when commuters spontaneously advise the Tram operators of a problem that the Tram personnel learn of changes to the subway service.

Paravati agreed that a simply walkie-talkie device between the subway clerk and the Tram supervisor would improve this situation. The Tram operators already carry a walkie-talkie to communicate with their co-workers.

At the same time that RIOC distributed the advisory to residents, it might have communicated the MTA announcement of disruption in service to the Tram personnel. There was no such communication on Thursday morning; the Tram personnel accelerated the schedule prior to the 9:00 am advisory.

It is unconscionable that, in the 25 years of operating the Tram and the subway, the MTA and RIOC have not figured out how to communicate effectively between themselves and with the Tram personnel and with residents who rely on uninterrupted subway and Tram service.

I urge my neighbors to join me in making their lack of confidence in RIOC's advisory system known.

I further encourage them to focus attention on RIOC's failure to promote effective communication between the MTA, RIOC and the Tram personnel that would serve the public.