The MBTA is currently beta-testing a project & corresponding web application called “Transit Diary“. Its purpose is to collect data directly from riders about their experiences riding the T, presumably to help the T evaluate how well it is serving riders’ needs and where service-improvement efforts should be focused.
Unfortunately, Transit Diary employs obsolete, inferior techniques and technology. As a result, the amount of data collected by the project will be limited, it will be less accurate than it could have been, and it will come from an extremely self-selected, non-representative sample. At best, the resulting data will be far less useful than it could have been; at worst, it will be completely useless.
Here’s how Transit Diary works:
- You ride the T.
- At some point after you’re done riding the T, hopefully the same day, you visit a web site and fill out a survey, remembering as best as you can the details of your trip.
- At the end of the week, you visit the same web site and fill out a weekly survey, remembering as best as you can your experiences riding the T that week.
- If you don’t fill out the weekly survey by Sunday at might, it goes away and you can’t fill it out.
Here’s how the T’s Transit Diary should work:
- The T pays the maintainers of the Moovit app to customize it to collect the data the T wants (Moovit already collects most of it! In real-time!), or pays to license the code and adds the customizations itself.
- The T releases the custom-branded app and aggressively advertises for users to install it, and free, accurate data pours in, in previously unimaginable quantities.
- There is no number 3.
Because of its dependence on obsolete, inferior technology, the MBTA’s Transit Diary is a waste of money (in particular, your money and mine, since we pay the fares and taxes that fund the T) that does a grave disservice to its riders.