Public transit shouldn’t be a roller coaster ride but, if you follow New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority on Twitter, the past week may have felt like one. The MTA, which runs the U.S.’s largest rapid transit network, is back to posting real-time service alerts and updates on the social media platform.
“We know that customers missed us, so starting today we’ll resume posting service alerts” across multiple accounts, the agency tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “We’re glad that Twitter has committed to offering free API access for public service providers.”
We’re glad that Twitter has committed to offering free API access for public service providers.
We’ve made critical investments in digital products, such as our apps and station screens, to communicate with customers. But Twitter is a part of that toolkit.
— MTA (@MTA) May 4, 2023
That return comes after about a week-long hiatus where the agency said it would stop tweeting out service info as “the reliability of the platform [could] no longer be guaranteed.” Also, Twitter wanted to charge the MTA about $US50,000 ($69,410) per month to post its automated subway alerts, and the public transit authority was not down for it.
Amid Elon Musk’s mission to monetise as much as possible and fill the monster debt chasm left by his chaotic Twitter acquisition, the billionaire has initiated a slew of changes. One of them, was to end unlimited free access to the platform’s application program interface (API) — which allows accounts to automate their posts.
Extensive public backlash was swift. Automated alerts have historically been one of the few, inarguably important and useful aspects of Twitter. After assurances from federal and municipal agencies like the MTA, National Tsunami Warning Centre, and National Weather Service that they wouldn’t pay to keep their bots, Twitter flip-flopped. On Tuesday, following months of confusion and back-and-forth, the platform assured that it would once again allow “verified gov or public owned services” to tweet out alerts, updates, and emergency notices at no cost.
“The MTA informed Twitter senior management that it would not pay to provide the public with critical service information. Twitter got the message and reversed its plan to charge the MTA more than half a million dollars per year for these alerts, so now no transit agency will need to pay,” Shanifah Rieara, the MTA’s acting chief customer office, said in a statement shared with Gizmodo.
Initially, it was unclear if that would be enough to draw the MTA back . The transit agency’s concerns about Twitter’s reliability seemed to extend beyond the site’s demands for more than $US500,000 ($694,100) per year to post. There were at least two instances of major disruption to the MTA’s Twitter account last month alone, on April 14 and 27, according to a previous statement from the transit authority.
Yet, on top of revoking its request for pay, Twitter apparently did enough to prove to the MTA that its platform would run smoother moving forward. The transit agency “received written assurances from Twitter that reliability on the platform will be guaranteed through technological means, so riders can count on receiving messages posted on Twitter,” Rieara’s statement notes. “We will continue to closely monitor to ensure Twitter meets the reliability standard riders deserve.”
That said, the MTA isn’t putting all of its eggs in one basket, and neither should you. The authority noted in its tweets and Rieara’s statement that there are lots of other places riders can and should look for information on service alerts. There is mta.info and the agency’s MYmta and TrainTime apps. Screens in stations provide delay announcements and other notices. MTA riders can also sign up for email and SMS alerts.
Who knows where Twitter will be in a year. Yet the NYC subway is a century older than the social media site. There are no guarantees in this world, but Gizmodo bets the trains will outlast the tweets. So, it might be worth downloading the dedicated app.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.