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Enjoying the Ride in the Bay State
Danny Levy is Chief Customer Officer for the Mass Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), a newly-created position that is charged with improving the daily experience of each and every MBTA rider by working with all MBTA departments that interact with the public in order to improve services to customers in a comprehensive and consistent way through innovative marketing, communication and programming. She started the job in July after spending 13 years at Massport and Boston’s Logan International Airport, where she oversaw strategic marketing.
Danny, congratulations on your new role at MBTA. Give us a quick recap of the MBTA system itself.
Thank you. The MBTA is among the top five and oldest transit systems in the country, operating rapid transit, trackless trolley, bus, ferry and commuter rail service throughout eastern Massachusetts. By the numbers, the T serves 1.3 million customers daily; operates a rapid transit network with a fleet of more than 600 vehicles along 60 route-miles of track; a bus network stretching through 51 cities and towns; and a commuter rail system with 139 stations passing through 175 cities and towns.
Fleet of busses ready for service
A majority of riders are local commuters, but we always see tourists, students, business travelers on the T with their luggage, street maps and multiple accents! How many non-residents ride the T each year?
We know how many people ride the T every day and where they start from or finish. Unfortunately, we are unable to distinguish between visitors from other countries or states and our permanent residents. Still, the MBTA never forgets that Boston is one of the top visitor destinations in the country and the world, with potential T riders coming from all walks and corners of the globe via the fast-growing international service at Logan Airport. And we never forget that Boston is also the college capital of the world. As a result, in all our service planning we aim to make the T as visitor-friendly as possible. We do it by putting ourselves in the shoes of the first-time visitor who may not speak English and ask ourselves: If we were a first-time visitor who spoke another language what we would need to help us get around?
How does MBTA cater to out-of-town visitors – do you have multiple language materials, apps, or online information that visitors can easily access? Are there many multi-lingual tellers that help foreign visitors?
For the past 400 years, Boston has thrived because of its connections with the rest of the world. Keeping our sights focused outward, not inward, is how this city and region has grown and prospered in the past. It’s unlikely that will change now. Our global orientation shows up in the millions of international visitors New England gets every year and the considerable trade that moves in and out across our border every day. The MBTA recognizes that we have an obligation to do our part to lay out the welcome mat for everyone who comes here. And so, we make sure we do everything a host is expected to do to make their guests feel welcome. For example, we assign multi-lingual Ambassadors to high-volume stations. These public service staff assist those who approach us for help or look as though they might be lost or confused, providing directions or help navigating our fare collection system. The MBTA also offers a wide variety of language options in our online services. Customers can use these to navigate our web site or plan their next trip – wherever they come from.
New orange line cars in production
The MBTA is a great connector to Amtrak trains and commuter trains that travel to other parts of the state and the New England region. How do you partner with other transportation entities to promote T services and to create a consistent marketing message?
The MBTA and Amtrak share facilities at North and South Stations and are accessible by MBTA rapid transit and bus services. Travelers have direct access to Amtrak’s Acela system between Boston, New York and Washington, DC, as well as service to Chicago and beyond. From North Station Amtrak’s Downeaster provides service to Maine and points north. To promote travel on commuter rail, travelers can now enjoy $10 unlimited weekend travel across the commuter rail network. This special offer allows visitors to reach beyond Boston to points north, south and west of Boston. This is an especially attractive offer as we enter the brilliant fall foliage “leaf-peeping” season.
Consistent customer service is a key element of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, as you know from your airport days. Any ideas or initiatives you’d like to share with our readers about what T riders can expect in the coming months?
The MBTA has an ambitious $8 billion capital programs to fund hundreds of projects over the next five years, some of which our riders will be able utilize sooner rather than later. The projects fall into three main categories: Resiliency, Modernization and Expansion. What it means is the MBTA service that more than a million people rely on everyday will see upgrades on tracks and switches to work in good weather and bad. Service will be more reliable as buses and trains way past their prime are replaced with new and more modern ones. And people living in places not currently accessible to service will see that need addressed. On the Green Line, for example, we are doubling capacity with the newer and bigger trollies we are buying. On the Red Line, we are also replacing old cars with new ones. Upgrades to the track system will enable the T to run trains three minutes apart instead of the present five-minute headways – a 60 percent increase in capacity. As new technology becomes available we think might significantly improve the customer experience of those riding the T, we might carefully integrate it to the current system – just as we are doing with upgrades in the way riders pay their fares, coming to a station near you. So stay tuned!
Thank you, Danny!