Approximately 700,000 people in areas throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC rely on the Metrorail for their transportation needs. But what happens when the Metrorail experiences problems and its official information feeds don’t communicate fast enough to comfort passengers?
If you happen to be frequent Metrorail passengers, James Pizzurro, Roger Bowles, and Stephen Repetski, then you create your own news source. In January 2016, the three men decided to co-found Rail Transit OPS using social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to offer independent monitoring of the Metro’s daily functions.
Although the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority already provides official service status reports, alerts, and advisories, the Rail Transit OPS co-founders felt official sites were prone to time delays and often lacked detailed information. So what is the Rail Transit OPS team doing that that Metro official aren’t.
Working collaboratively, Repetski, Pizzurro, and Bowles use a combination of real-time data, scanner traffic, the MetroHero app, past incident reports, eyewitness accounts, and National Safety Board documents to paint a more complete picture of Metrorail issues as they arise.
And while Metro officials are aware of the Rail Transit OPS’s existence, they insist that communication gaps occur to preserve the accuracy of information being publicized.
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “Hobbyists are commonplace in the transit industry, and we respect their enthusiasm. As the official source of information, it is important that we take time to ensure that information is accurate before release—something that cannot be done by merely listening to the radio.”
As of May 2016, the Metrorail’s Twitter page @Metrorailinfo had 53.2K followers, while the @RailTransitOPS Twitter page boasted just over 2,000 followers. Clearly, the Metroline remains the premier source for transit information for most patrons. But as society continues to demand better, faster information, will that last?