The MBTA’s new mobile site for smartphones and tablet computers won’t help the agency’s trains and buses run on time this winter, but it should make commuters’ experiences more predictable - especially when things aren’t moving along as scheduled. The new portal, which pops up automatically whenever a user accesses MBTA.com from any mobile device, is a significant upgrade from the low-tech site it’s replacing. Instead of providing static lists of updates and routes, the revamped page lets users plot out trips in real time and access up-to-the-minute service alerts. Riders can also use a comment form to quickly type off complaints or send pictures of problems they encounter directly to MBTA staff.
But unlike a similar function in the City of Boston’s Citizens Connect initiative, the MBTA site doesn’t enable the public to view and track problems submitted by other riders, or to monitor resolutions to those submitted complaints. With more information at their fingertips, riders would be able to seek other routes or be better prepared to weather any delays. The MTBA shouldn’t be afraid to expose its problems to riders - who’ve already come to expect them. It makes more sense to be open about if, when, and where they’ll encounter those hiccups.