In mid-June, New York City Transit (NYCT) launched TransitTrax, a podcast service that enables the agency to reach out to customers using digital handheld devices such as MP3 players. With the new service, transit customers are able to download and listen to advisories, news and feature stories. The podcasts are being updated weekly with information about security and transit routes undergoing construction.
“In this digital age, podcasting is becoming an increasingly convenient way to listen to news and other information when and where you want to hear it,” said Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) NYCT President Lawrence G. Reuter.
Podcasting is a way to share multimedia files such as news bulletins, music videos and in TransitTrax’s case, information and stories. The Internet is the primary place to hear the podcasts, but to store them for future use, users will need downloadable devices such as an MP3 player or iPod.
Once the communications department creates the audio files for the shows, they are converted into XML and MP3 files using special software. The files are then uploaded to the Web server where subscribers and listeners can visit www.mta.info, click on MTA Launches Podcasts and view all of the show options. These radio-style broadcasts can be played from an iPod, MP3 player or computer.
Following the New York Police Department’s podcasting lead last fall, NYCT developed various issues for customers to listen to at their leisure. The change of the MTA Website in June prompted the initiation of the podcasting service that went live on June 12. For now, the site will be updated weekly with two new podcasts.
Since the beginning of the TransitTrax program, the site has had more than 1,400 visitors per week.
“The MTA Website is the go-to destination for our customers who want to learn more about our transit system,” said Paul Fleuranges, NYCT’s vice president of corporate communications.
TransitTrax’s podcasts will cover both train and bus topics, but the content will focus more on trains at the moment, explains Fleuranges. “Over time, we will be doing more on buses,” he adds.
One of the agency’s podcast-capable stories is Weekend Advisories, which offers riders diversion updates to help them avoid detours and make their commute easier. “We’re in a digital age,” said Fleuranges, “and we’re trying to find another way to communicate with our customers.”
Fliers and handouts are still information providers for riders, but with TransitTrax’s new podcaster capabilities, customers can tune in when they want to.
The most popular downloadable story varies from week-to-week but recently it has been the Battery Park Wall story, said Sohaib Mallick, senior director of Internet technologies and information services.
The story recounts the MTA South Ferry Station replacement project, which turned into an archaeological excavation once workers hit an old New York wall. This specific podcast highlights the digging near the wall thought to be 17th and 18th century gun batteries, many of which were built for bomb protection during warfare.
Other items of interest on the Website include stories discussing the issue of sick passengers. This particular show highlights how sick passengers can affect scheduling. According to the show, in 2005 there were 911 sick customer incidents. Sick passenger occurrences caused 3,861 delayed trains last year alone, making them the fifth-leading cause for delays that year.
Another program titled Lost and Found has a story about a pair of prosthetic legs left behind more than 10 years ago. They are still waiting to be claimed by their owner.