Hi! I'm the guy that made @mbta_alerts, and I'm shutting it down. If you're curious why or are thinking about blaming the MBTA, please keep reading. Otherwise, thanks for following the account, I hope it was helpful while it was going.
It seems most people didn't realize that @mbta_alerts wasn't an official MBTA account. Go back and read the description and you'll see that it says this:
See if your train, bus or boat has been delayed (or canceled). This account IS NOT maintained or watched by the MBTA. Click the website link for more info.
Is not. Sorry. The website it's hinting at is this one. I built @mbta_alerts after being an angry commuter one night a couple of years ago.
All that @mbta_alerts did was read the MBTA's Alerts RSS feed and post most of it automatically up to Twitter. I filtered out a couple of messages automatically:
- Alerts about elevators and escalators, because meh
- Alerts too long to fit into a tweet
Recently, the MBTA updated their alerts system to be way more detailed about delays. This is a great thing, now you can have a much better idea of what to expect. The downside is that virtually every post is too long for Twitter now. That's why the account just stopped tweeting, every alert is being filtered out.
While I found this account useful when I was commuting, I stopped travelling into Boston a couple of years ago. It wasn't any work to keep the account going (I mean, robots do most of the work), so I let it ride for as long as it could.
And then recently, marathon bombings. The alerts coming through were apparently either longer than normal or formatted in a way the robots didn't understand. People were looking to the @mbta_alerts account for help, and I was in no position to do that. I live in Amesbury with no real ties to the MBTA. Everyone wanted answers and they probably knew more about the situation than I did. The best I could do was forward a couple of message that I found.
So now the robots don't know how to write tweets from the new, long alert tweets. And it's a pretty big task to try to shorten paragraphs of alerts into little tweets automatically. Much more work than I currently have time for.
I thought about selling this account to someone (even giving it away) to let them take over the project, but that doesn't seem fair to the followers. Who knows what they'll do with the account, I don't want you guys getting spammed by someone or something you didn't intend to follow.
The best thing to do seems to be to shut this project down.
If you still want to get alerts, you should checkout the new MBTA T-Alerts system. It might be for you.
And if it isn't, there are lots of projects, websites, other Twitter accounts, and apps that are being worked on by people much smarter than me to get you the alerts you want to receive.
While I don't reply to most of them, I've read every reply you guys have written into the @mbta_alerts account. A lot of you have extremely high expectations out of your public transportation system. It's great to strive for perfection, but also worth being realistic. There will always be delays, and no one is out to make you late.
Remember that the MBTA workers are people too, doing their jobs just like you, and believe it or not most work hard to get you all over the city (and beyond) safely and on time. They're not perfect — the system isn't perfect — but for the most part it works, and that's a great thing.
Say "thanks" to them every now and then.
I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
Finally, thank you for following this account (and double thank you for reading this message). I never would have thought that this account would find over 9,000 of you. It seems that necessity really is the mother of invention.
Former Boston Commuter, Guy That Made the @mbta_alerts Account