Train Or Bus Late? Transit Agency Will Alert You

CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio's biggest public transit agency plans an innovative system to alert riders by fax, phone, pager and e-mail to delays.

Still, "The ideal thing would be for it to run on time," George Zeller, who rides a train to work in downtown Cleveland, said Thursday.

Short of a perfect on-time record, Zeller likes the idea by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to offer alerts if a rider's regular bus or train is canceled or running very late.

"You need to communicate with customers about what you're doing to fix it," Zeller said. He is a volunteer member of an RTA citizens board that advises the agency on how to improve service.

The alert service, which will begin in the summer in the 59 million-rider RTA system, also is being tested in Atlanta.

Riders must sign up and can limit their request, for instance, to information about their bus route and time. Alerts will be limited to major disruptions, such as broken-down buses or blocked train tracks.

The RTA also will install electronic signs on platforms to tell riders when the next train will arrive and to offer news headlines, weather and transit updates.

"It's a valuable thing. It's analogous to what airlines use at airports," Zeller said.

The RTA board voted Tuesday to approve a 10-year contract with Mass Transit Network International of Atlanta to run the notification system.

The RTA will pay nothing. MTNI will install the signs at 16 stations and share advertising revenue with RTA, which expects to get up to $10,000 a year.

Amy Coggin, director of communications with the nonprofit American Public Transportation Association in Washington, D.C., said transit agencies across the country have been expanding electronic messaging.

MTNI Chief Executive Officer Paul Bermel said phone messages would be an expansion beyond e-mail alerts offered by other agencies, many of which have schedules and information available on the Internet.

Bus and train information will be collected by RTA's satellite communication system, which tracks buses and trains.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)