The mailbag at firstname.lastname@example.org planted the seed
I love your blog and I think you do a great job of maintaining a fair and objective forum. Given that you are probably the most “fair and balanced” critic (and believe me I mean no slight by that) I would think that the customer service people over at the MBTA might be inclined to take note. Your site is not a hate site although we MBTA users often hate what we have to deal with in order to get to and from work everyday.
Do you get any sense that they follow or care about what’s discussed on your site? It just astounds me that Dan G. is constantly spewing PR when I think most people would respect him if he admitted that there were problems to deal with such as those documented on your site. We get the sense that he’s insulated himself from criticism (a predictible defence mechanism).
Does Dan G. dimiss your blog as gliby as he does the rest of us?
and then came this comment to the blog
Paul Levy said…
Charlie,May I suggest an experiment? Why don’t you make a post explicitly asking any T executives, managers, or workers to let you know (1) if they read your blog, and how often, and (2) what they do with the information they learn from it?I am curious. Aren’t you?
Yes I am curious and last night I stumbled across something that that was done in Toronto last week that would be perfect for Boston.
These ideas emerged during last Sunday’s Transit Camp, a day of out-of-the-tunnel thinking on how to improve the Toronto Transit Commission, specifically, its clunky website, its shelters, its subway cars and the way it communicates with its riders.
The 100 or so campers were young, in their 20s and early 30s, mostly people who work in the communications and tech industries and university students, all madly in love with transit. The TTC is symbolic of their relationship with the city – but more about that later.
They wore toques and scarves, and some stayed in their parkas because the ballroom at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St. W. was frigid. Peering over their shoulders, watching as the younger people moved images around on their white Mac laptops, were the 50-somethings, the people who run the TTC, listening and learning. And politicians were hovering, too. Adam Giambrone, the TTC Chair, spent the day there. Vice-chair Joe Mihevc was also present.
Gary Webster, 55, interim general manager of the TTC, took notes. “Several years ago this is not a group I would likely spend time with on a Sunday,” said Webster. “But if we don’t show up we send them a message we don’t care … we have to think of it more from their point of view than we usually do.”
Many saw this as an important turning point, if not a history-making event: here were the TTC brass and politicians listening to their riders, the people who use the beleaguered system, and young people at that.
Webster came away with at least one idea he’ll consider: maps for each streetcar line showing where it intersects with other routes, so passengers on the Dundas car, for example, know where they can get onto the Yonge subway.
“The TTC is, for once, turning to its users,” said Bob Brent, former chief marketing officer for the system. Traditionally when the TTC consults, it calls the meeting, usually to tell riders about a route change. “It’s an organization that has tended to be xenophobic and claustrophobic.”
Brent, 56, started the TTC’s first website in 1997. “And it hasn’t changed in 10 years.”
This became a major news story in Toronto
CityNews – coverage on TransitCamp
World Changing – Unconferences and the Toronto Transit Camp
BoingBoing’s “an unconvention to improve The Better Way”:
NowToronto – Camp out with TTC Geeks
Toronto Star – Minding the gaps on the The Better Way
Toronto Transit’s Toronto Transit Camp wrap-up
Treehugger.com – Taking back the city: Toronto Transit Camp
BlogTO.com – Toronto Transit Camp betters the Better Way
The camp laid out ground rules
What is Toronto Transit Camp?
Come ready to share, contribute and collaborate! Transit Camp is inspired by BarCamp. Bar Camp events are powered by participation. The event will be well-documented in the form of blog posts, wiki content, photos, and video for everyone who is unable to attend. (Please use the tag: transitcamp.) If you would like to be part of the event, please keep in mind that we are limited to 100 people and so everyone there must be interested and involved.
Bar Camp: A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.
We will hold simultaneous small-group sessions on a self-organized basis around topics of interest to the community: redesigning the TTC’s website, creating and selling user-generated media and articles (music, buttons, t-shirts), photography, illustration and music inspired by the TTC.
This celebration and workshop-oriented event is intended to inspire a fresh approach at the TTC in how it serves users and engages with community in order to achieve its organizational goals.
See the tentative (and evolving!) schedule to understand the format.
What This is Not!
Toronto Transit Camp is not a complaints department, it is a solution playground.
We will not be changing bus schedules, talking about stop locations, complaining about creaky infrastructure or otherwise telling the TTC how to do its core business. The organizers respect that there are many hard-working, dedicated and experienced professionals in the TTC who have been able to accomplish remarkable things for this city’s transit infrastructure over the years under very difficult resource constraints.
A complete overview can be found at http://transitcamp.org/about
Toronto perhaps has the most similar transit system in North America to ours in Boston. The officials of the Toronto Transit Commission accepted the invitation of the Toronto blogging community. I feel we should do the same.
I ask MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas to consider doing a similar event here in Boston.
If you agree I will contact the Toronto people and your staff for help in setting this up. It is pointless to procede any further with this idea without a response from the T. I would ask that you would contact transit officials in the City of Toronto to find out what the experience was like for them.
The only thing I ask from you is a response of some kind.
Thank you for your consideration.
To our readers – how do you feel about this idea? Would you like to take part?
Please let us know.