Management & Operations

New MBTA app allows BRT riders to rate service

Posted on May 10, 2016


Passengers of MBTA's Silver Line bus rapid transit service are now able to share feedback on their riding experience by rating their bus trips using a new smartphone app from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the transit agency.

The app, named QualiT, allows individuals to anonymously share feedback with the T. The service is similar to ones provided on Uber and Lyft transportation systems, and provides crowd-sourced data to help improve service.

"We are working hard to enhance our channels of communicating information to our customers," said MBTA GM Frank DePaola. "And with this new app, we want to let our customers know they can contribute to translate their everyday riding experience into the kind of real-time information that can help us improve service."

QualiT works by activating a research platform called Future Mobility Sensing (FM Sensing), developed by researchers from MIT and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). The tool seeks to better understand people’s travel paths and modes by collecting anonymous location data through smartphones’ sensors (such as GPS and WiFi).

Silver Line riders will also be able to see their own travels displayed on a map in the app — visible only to the individual. The app will automatically prompt users to rate their Silver Line trips onboard or immediately after exiting a bus.

Participation is voluntary, and riders may withdraw at any point by uninstalling the app. The app does not collect personally identifiable information, and the data system is highly encrypted and secured. Data collected will be used for research and service improvement only, and will never be shared with third parties.

"We have recently seen many innovations in urban transportation in the private market," said Corinna Li, a dual-degree master's student in city planning and transportation who worked on developing the app. "And we are inspired to help public transit systems leverage emerging technologies to better serve their riders."

For every trip a rider gives feedback on through the app, he/she will automatically earn one entry to a monthly sweepstake to win a monthly pass. The pilot program will operate for three months.

Riders can sign up for and download the FMSensing app online from the AppStore (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).

Other customer information-based initiatives deployed by the MBTA over the past year include the activation of 58 new countdown clocks on Green Line rail stops and eight clocks on the Silver Line. And last March, the MBTA unveiled its Dashboard, which, for the first time, allows the public to track the daily reliability levels of the four subway lines and all 170 bus routes. It also marks the first time that performance data for all four branches of the Green Line is publically available. It features monthly updates on ridership and budget information.

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