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28 LEGAL CLAIMS RESULTING FROM UNCLEARED BUS STOPS Although most transit agencies have experience with legal claims for various liability issues, only six of the responding agencies (19%) have been involved with legal claims resulting from uncleared bus stops. Each of the six agencies has more than 4,500 bus stops. None of the smaller agencies reported such claims. The six claims were the result of negligence, five claims from the public and one from non- compliance with ADA requirements. No agencies were fined or involved with violation notices from local or state governments. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS Of the 32 agencies that responded to the survey, 22 (69%) disseminate weather-related public service announcements (PSAs) during extreme weather events (Figure 22). The agencies that do not have extreme weather have no need to make such announcements. The most widely used method of com- munication is through the agency website, followed by radio, television, text message, social media, e-mail, signs at bus stops, agency bus arrival information platform, and cell phone alerts. Although agencies tend not to create PSAs for individual bus stops, they do make PSAs for routes that are affected by extreme weather and the corresponding bus stops within the route. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) may detour a route and that detour is noted on its website, on the bus platform, text and cell phone alerts, e-mail, and social media. Cherriots, a transit provider in Salem, Oregon, posts snow routes on its website all year long and warns the public in advance of service changes. CASE EXAMPLE: MASSACHUSETTS BAY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY WINTER WEATHER CUSTOMER SERVICE BULLETIN MBTA regularly reaches out to customers during extreme weather events using e-mail, text mes- saging, applications (apps), social media posts, and on-site PSAs. Figure 23 is the agencyâs premier customer service slogan. MBTA allows frequent riders to sign up for âT-alertsâ through e-mail or text message, which the agency advertises as the most reliable, up-to-date method for a rider to receive notifications about changes in transit availability during extreme weather. MBTA encourages customers to follow the agency on Twitter: @mbta for important updates about system-wide temporary changes. In addition, MBTA encourages customers to download third-party apps, which deliver real-time tran sit information to passengers. The agency conducted a customer survey to determine which inde- pendent applications were most useful to riders; one of the criteria on which the apps were rated was their service alerts for updated information on changes in schedules or routes during extreme weather events. The app âTransitâ was easily the most well-reviewed app for MBTA buses and was rated posi- tively by users in every category. Interestingly, âTransitâ covers several metropolitan areasâlarge and chapter six SURVEY RESULTS: LEGAL CLAIMS AND COMMUNICATIONS
29 smallâacross the United States, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston, although exactly which types of transit and which agencies are covered by this application varies by region. A full list is available at transitapp.com/regions. MBTA bus routes that are located on hilly or narrow streets are particularly difficult to navigate during winter weather. As a result, routes that are likely to be changed during snow and ice storms have clearly posted âSnow Routesâ available as PDF files on mbta.com/winter (2016). These files often include maps of where routes will detour during and just proceeding snowfall. The MBTA has 34 snow route maps available on its site. âTHE RIDE,â the MBTAâs paratransit program, is operated by three independent organizations under contract to the agency. As services may be reduced according to the accessibility of a given area during extreme weather, MBTA shifts responsibility to the contractors to inform customers about availability. CASE EXAMPLE: CHERRIOTS WINTER BUS TRAVEL SERVICE ADVISORIES Salem, Oregon, has a small transit agency called Cherriots, which posts on its website all year long what the snow routes are and alerts the public in advance of service changes. This website is a prime example of customer-oriented, simple, and accessible service advisories for small agencies. Under the How to Ride section of cherriots.org, Winter Bus Travel is the first category posted on the site. There one can find both a list and a map of routes most frequently affected by snowfall, heavy 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 Agency Website Radio Television Text Message Email Social Media Sign at Bus Stop Agency Bus Arrival Information Platform Cell Phone Alert FIGURE 22 How are weather-related PSAs received during extreme weather events? Source: Thomson Consulting. FIGURE 23 MBTA slogan. Source: MBTA.
30 rain, ice, and wind, as well as a link to the Service Advisories page, which is updated frequently and regularly year-round (Figure 24). The page includes all currently effective service advisories listed in chronological order, with more recent advisories at the top. During extreme weather events, the page lights up with the most up-to-date information on snow routes and closures, as well as route suspensions that are scheduled in the future. FIGURE 24 Cherriotsâ website includes a list of routes frequently affected by extreme weather.